ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel has issued an apology for performing in blackface nearly two decades ago while appearing on Comedy Central’s The Man Show in which he impersonated black NBA star Karl Malone.
Kimmel, who is on hiatus from ABC, also reportedly used the n-word repeatedly in a separate incident during which he imitated rapper Snoop Dogg for a 1996 Christmas album. The comedian said he was sorry for the “words I spoke” but didn’t specifically admit to using the n-word, despite the existence of audio evidence.
“I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us. That delay was a mistake,” Kimmel said in a statement sent to multiple news outlets Tuesday. “There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.”
On Tuesday, the anti-Trump comedian tried to explain his use of blackface, saying that it came from a recurring radio impression of NBA star Karl Malone he performed on the KROQ station during the 90s.
“In the late 90s, I continued impersonating Malone on TV. We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible. I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl’s skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head. I’ve done dozens of impressions of famous people, including Snoop Dogg, Oprah, Eminem, Dick Vitale, Rosie, and many others. In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more. Looking back, many of these sketches are embarrassing, and it is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices”
The comedian claimed that by finally addressing his use of blackface, he is standing up to the real bullies.
“I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last twenty-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show. I know that this will not be the last I hear of this and that it will be used again to try to quiet me. I love this country too much to allow that. I won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas.”
In his apology, Kimmel made no specific reference to his reported use of the n-word in 1996. Fox News reported this week that Kimmel admitted years ago that he imitated rapper Snoop Dogg’s voice for a track in a 1996 Christmas album in which Kimmel used the “N-word” several times.
Kimmel has urged actor Tom Arnold to release an alleged “n-word” tape of President Trump in 2018. So far, no such tape has emerged.
Jimmy Kimmel announced last week that he was taking two months off from his ABC show to spend more time with his family. “My family is healthy, I’m healthy. I just need a couple of months off,” he said on Thursday’s edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live!