Late-Night Show Host Jimmy Kimmel Apologizes for Previous Blackface Skits of NBA Star Karl Malone

June 23, 2020

Late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel apologized for his previous blackface sketches Tuesday - a few days after he had announced he was taking the rest of the summer off.

He said his summer break of three months was pre-planned and not related to the current controversy, according to a story from The Wrap.

The host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” did a blackface impression of NBA star Karl Malone in the mid and late 1990s, according to The Hollywood Reporter and The Wrap.

His apology comes amid HBO pulling "Gone With the Wind" for its racist portrayal of black people earlier this month. In May, another late-night show host and comedian Jimmy Fallon also apologized for blackface makeup and impersonating another comedian, Chris Rock.

Kimmel said in a statement in The Hollywood Reporter that "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. 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."

When Kimmel was impersonating Malone, he wore blackface makeup and a bald cap for the Comedy Central's "The Man Show," according to the story.

In The Hollywood Reporter story, Kimmel stated "On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone. 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."

Kimmel goes on to say in his statement that he believes he has evolved and matured over the last twenty-plus years.

"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," The Wrap reports.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

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. 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 KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone. 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.

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.

My summer vacation has been planned for more than a year and includes the next two summers off as well. I will be back to work in September.

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I’ve disappointed, I am sorry. 

Sincerely,

Jimmy Kimmel 

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