Jay Leno has managed to offend two religious groups in the span of one week. On last Thursday’s edition of “The Tonight Show,” Leno displayed a picture of the Golden Temple, a holy shrine of Sikhs in India, and joked that it was the summer home of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Leno was making a reference to Romney’s wealth, but, according to reports in India, one official is upset with the late-night host.
Vayalar Ravi, the visiting affairs minister for non-resident Indians, was quoted as saying, “It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the…Golden Temple.” The official continued, “The Golden Temple is the Sikh community’s most sacred place. Even our Prime Minister went there for praying in the New Year. I believe the person who has shown [it] is not that ignorant. The American government should also look at this kind of thing.”
The reports further state that many local Sikhs have expressed outrage. In addition, the joke has spawned a “Boycott Jay Leno” Facebook group.
According to the BBC, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the government has not been in contact with India over the matter and that Leno’s comments “appeared to be satirical in nature.”
A California man named Dr. Randeep Dhillon doesn’t see it that way. According to TMZ.com, Dhillon has filed a libel lawsuit against Leno over the joke, claiming it “falsely portrays the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh.” He seeks general and punitive damages.
Leno has also irked a Catholic organization with a joke he made on Monday’s “Tonight Show” about a Los Angeles-area bishop who resigned after admitting he fathered two children. Referring to the bishop’s namesake in the game of chess, Leno said, “I thought bishops could only move diagonally. I didn’t know they could move up and down,” and made corresponding hand gestures. He then said, “Isn’t it amazing the bishop of L.A. confessed to fathering two children? But, hey, he didn’t use birth control, so at least he followed the church rules. You gotta give him credit for that.”
The president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, claims Leno “has a long track record of bashing Catholicism.” He further states, “The most serious cases of the sexual abuse of minors currently taking place are among Orthodox Jewish rabbis in Brooklyn, yet Leno would never tell a joke at their expense. The rate of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals is 50 times higher than in the rest of the population, yet Leno would never tell a joke at their expense. [Note: making such jokes would be equally offensive.] But if there is one wayward Catholic clergyman, it’s not only acceptable to ridicule him, it’s okay to mock the teachings of the Catholic Church.”