Jimmy Kimmel apologizes for use of blackface in 1990s Karl Malone impressions

Jimmy Kimmel apologized Tuesday for his 1990s blackface impressions of NBA player Karl Malone and other Black celebrities.

"I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke," the ABC late-night star said in a statement.

Kimmel's impersonation of Malone, which he started on radio and then brought to television on Comedy Central, was frequently criticized by Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity, among others.

Kimmel said he had long been reluctant to address the subject, "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," he said.

Kimmel added: "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."

Full statement from Jimmy Kimmel:

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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