Sharon Osbourne is speaking out about her own experience on America's Got Talent amid the controversial firing of judge Gabrielle Union. Osbourne, 67, said on Monday's episode of The Talk that "it's hard" to speak on the matter in a way that accurately reflects everyone's separate experience.
"Everybody's experience on a show is different, and I was at that show for six years. I didn't get let go," Osbourne said, explaining that it wasn't the show itself that pushed her to leave, but that it was instead NBC. She was a judge on the talent competition from Season 2 through 7, announcing her departure in July 2012.
"I left. And that's the truth. I left because of NBC, not because of the show. I had my own problems with the network," she said. "I don't know about any of her [Union's] concerns about the show."
"Obviously, there wasn't anybody of color on the panel when I was there. So I honestly can't say. But when I was there it was, you know, a great show to work on," she continued.
"The crew and everybody was amazing to me — everybody except the network."
Co-host Sheryl Underwood later defended Union, saying, "I am always proud when someone in the workplace has the courage to stand up for what is right. It's something that we need to talk about... things that are appropriate and things that are inappropriate."
In 2012, Osbourne revealed that her reason for leaving AGT had to do with her son Jack Osbourne, telling the New York Post that Jack was set to work on a new reality TV series Stars Earn Stripes — which pit celebrities against each other in military-like training activities — but she said the network cut ties with him after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She said Jack was fired by email just two days before he was scheduled to report to work.
"I just can't be fake," Osbourne told the New York Post at the time. "It's discrimination, and it was badly handled."
In response, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt told the Associated Press, "This is coming out of context and sort of spontaneously, and we don't even know what's going on."
A Stars and Stripes producer told the Post that Jack was never formally hired and that there were doubts he'd be able to handle the show.
The latest controversy for NBC began last month when news broke that Union, 47, and Julianne Hough would not return as judges for Season 15 of AGT. A report by Variety claimed that while working on the show, Union expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations, including a joke by guest judge Jay Leno that was later edited out of the episode. The report also claimed that Union and Hough, 31, were both subject to "excessive notes" on their physical appearance. Four sources told the publication that Union was told her various hairstyles were "too black" for the AGT audience.
In a statement, a spokesperson for NBC and Freemantle previously said: "America's Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT's enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously."