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Late-Night Talk Show Host Jimmy Kimmel Apologizes For Use Of Blackface

Late-night ABC host Jimmy Kimmel issued an apology on Tuesday for his previous use of blackface impressions in comedic sketches.

"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," Kimmel said in the statement.

The host had previously used blackface, a practice with deep racist roots, in impressions of Black celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Karl Malone in The Man Show, a Comedy Central series in which he co-starred.

Footage of Kimmel impersonating Malone, in particular, had been circulating the Internet in recent weeks. In the video, Kimmel is pictured on a basketball court in full-body black makeup, using an exaggerated dialect to impersonate Malone.

The host has been on break from his ABC show Jimmy Kimmel Live! this summer. In the statement, Kimmel called his past use of blackface "embarrassing."

Kimmel, who has been outspokenly progressive on many issues, said that he did not immediately address people's concerns about his past conduct because he believed it would be "celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us."

He said that waiting this long was a mistake.

Another late-night host, Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show on NBC, has also been under fire for past use of blackface. Fallon apologized on his show for it. NBC comedy series 30 Rock also received criticism for using blackface in four of its episodes, which have since been pulled from streaming services.

"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," Kimmel said. "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."

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Austin Horn is a 2019-2020 Kroc Fellow. He joined NPR after internships at the San Antonio Express-News and Frankfort State-Journal, as well as a couple stints in the service industry. He aims to keep his reporting grounded in the experience of real individuals of all stripes.