Julianne Hough praises Gabrielle Union for 'speaking her truth' amid 'AGT' controversy

The former "America's Got Talent" judge commended fellow former judge Gabrielle Union for "starting a conversation" amid her controversial exit from the show.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Julianne Hough weighed in on the controversial exit of fellow former "America's Got Talent" judge Gabrielle Union, saying on TODAY Thursday that she commends Union for "speaking her truth and starting a conversation."

NBC officials met with Union on Tuesday in the wake of a Variety report that Union's departure came after she complained about inappropriate behavior involving talent and producers on the show, as well as racially insensitive events.

"We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday,'' Union tweeted on Wednesday. "I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change."

"The initial conversation was candid and productive,'' NBC said in a statement. "While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution."

Hough, whose contract was also not renewed for another season of "AGT," did not comment on whether she also experienced a "toxic culture" on the set, but responded to Union's tweet on the 3rd hour of TODAY.

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"When I see that comment there, that excites me so much because that is what we need to start conversations,'' she said. "I just commend Gabrielle for speaking her truth and starting a conversation.

"And I'm proud of NBC as well for also showing up and starting a narrative. That's what's gonna change the workplace and the paradigm that we've been working in for many, many years, and it's shifting, and I think that's really exciting."

Hough said she has reached out to Union but has not spoken to her since her exit from the show. She said she is not surprised by the attention the situation has received.

"No, I wasn't because I think that this is a big conversation, and I think people really want to be a leader of change,'' she said. "I'm just really excited about the tweet (by Union) to show that two people can come together and have that kind of conversation."

Hough and her brother, Derek, were on the 3rd hour of TODAY to promote their upcoming holiday special,"Holidays with the Houghs," which airs on NBC on Dec. 16.

NBC had previously responded to reports about Union's exit due to a "toxic culture" at "America's Got Talent" in a statement on Monday.

"We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate."

According to Variety, Union was told her hairstyles were "too black" for the audience, and urged producers to contact human resources after guest judge Jay Leno allegedly made a joke "seen by people present as insensitive to Asian communities."

The joke never aired on the show and the situation was not escalated to human resources, Variety reported.

She was also allegedly labeled as "difficult" by Simon Cowell and producers of the show after she complained about Cowell smoking indoors, according to Vulture.

Former "AGT" judge Howard Stern blasted Cowell on his Sirius radio show this week.

"He has set it up that the men stay no matter how old they are, no matter how fat they are, no matter how ugly they are, no matter how talentless they are,'' Stern said. "But what he manages to do on all his shows is he constantly replaces the hot chicks with hotter chicks and younger chicks, which is so obvious."