Jimmy Kimmel apologizes for blackface skits, racial slur from 1990s

Jimmy Kimmel apologizes for blackface skits, racial slur from 1990s
Jimmy Kimmel issued a statement Tuesday, apologizing for impersonations he did during the 1990s that included blackface skits. (Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel apologized for using blackface during skits in the 1990s and also for using a racial slur multiple times during a 1996 Christmas album.

In a statement Tuesday, Kimmel said it was wrong for him to delay addressing his “embarrassing” impressions of celebrities during the 1990s, The Washington Post reported.

“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,” Kimmel wrote. “That delay was a mistake. 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.”

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During the mid-1990s, Kimmel did several impersonations of NBA star Karl Malone, on KROQ, a Los Angeles radio station, Entertainment Tonight reported. He later brought it to television with other impressions on the Comedy Central series “The Man Show,” a show he co-hosted with Adam Carolla from 1999 to 2003, the Post reported.

“We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible,” Kimmel wrote in his statement. “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."

Kimmel added he has done “dozens” of impersonations, including Dick Vitale, Snoop Dogg, Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O’Donnell and Eminem.

“In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more,” Kimmel wrote.

Fox News reported that Kimmel, in the 1996 song, “Christmastime in LBC,” imitated Snoop Dogg’s distinct rapping style.

Kimmel said he would be taking a break from hosting “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” until September, when he is set to host the Emmy Awards, the Post reported. Kimmel said the break had been planned in advance and had nothing to do with his impersonations or music parodies.

“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,” Kimmel wrote. “I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last 20-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.”

Kimmel’s apologies follow those of Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey. Fallon, the host of “The Tonight Show,” apologized last month for a “Saturday Night Live” sketch from 2000, when he appeared in blackface to impersonate Chris Rock.

Fey, who created the comedy “30 Rock,” said she asked for several episodes of the show to be pulled from streaming services because several characters were depicted in blackface, The New York Times reported.