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PASADENA, Calif. – After a scandal in the fall, “Saturday Night Live” may change how it screens new cast members. 

NBC chairman Paul Telegdy stands behind “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels’ decision to fire new cast member Shane Gillis in September, just days after hiring him, and says he is “sure” practices are being put in place to prevent a similar situation from happening again.  

“I think it was a learning moment for a lot of people,” Telegdy told reporters at the Television Critics Association Saturday. “How quickly Lorne acted and subsequently what happened is a testament to how we act as a company.”

“SNL” fired Gillis, hired as a featured player along with Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman, when stand-up material surfaced revealing racist views. On a 2018 episode of “Matt and Shane’s Secret Podcast,” the comedian made derogatory remarks about Asians while speaking with comedian co-host Matt McCusker.

“Chinatown’s (expletive) nuts,” Gillis said. “Let the (expletive) live there,” he added, using a racial slur.

Shane Gillis’ tenure on ‘SNL’ was short-lived: Four days, to be exact. (Photo: NBC)

When asked about how the incident might change “SNL” casting practices moving forward, Telegdy acknowledged the need to do better background checks on performers’ pasts, but said many comedians are wary of screening. 

“I’m sure there are specific practices being put in place,” he said. “Vetting people is very triggering for people who work in the world of free speech comedy. … It is an enormously fine line; it’s an enormously gray area. Who polices that is normally the performers who put their careers under the bus if they make the wrong decision.”

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He referenced comedian Ellen DeGeneres’s recent speech accepting a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, where she discussed risking her career by coming out as gay in the 1990s. 

“I’m reminded what Ellen DeGeneres said at the Golden Globes, which is how much she sacrificed; now this is the exact reversal of that if you look at it one way,” he said. “We’ve all got to learn lessons about what you shake down in one’s past and what you hold them accountable for. … I’m really proud … We acted fast, Lorne did the right thing. Going forward we think we’ll be able to be accountable.”

“SNL” and Michaels drew fierce criticism last fall for failing to unearth the troubling comments by the comedian before casting him on one of the oldest comedy institutions on TV. 

“After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining ‘SNL,'” Michaels said in a statement at the time. “We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days. The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable.  We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”

“SNL” returns with host Adam Driver and musical guest Halsey on Jan. 25 (11:30 EST/PST). 

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Contributing: Gary Levin

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