The Today show host addressed the controversy surrounding his colleagues after she questioned whether wearing blackface as part of a Halloween costume is actually racist on Tuesday.
While speaking about the incident with Savannah Guthrie and Craig Melvin during Today‘s 7 a.m. hour, Roker condemned Kelly’s comments.
“The fact is, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the county,” he said. “This is a history, going back to the 1830s [with] minstrel shows. To demean and denigrate a race wasn’t right. I’m old enough to have lived through Amos ‘n’ Andy where you had white people in blackface playing two black characters just magnifying the stereotypes about black people. And that’s what the big problem is. … No good comes from it. It’s just not right.”
“She said something stupid, she said something indefensible,” added Melvin, who called Kelly’s statement “ignorant and racist” but also called her “a colleague” and “a friend.”
On Wednesday, Kelly held back tears as she apologized again after defending white people who wear blackface on Halloween.
“I defended the idea, saying as long as it was respectful and part of a Halloween costume, it seemed okay. Well, I am wrong and I am sorry,” she said.
“One of the great parts of sitting in this chair each day is getting to discuss different points of view. Sometimes I talk and sometimes I listen. And yesterday I learned,” Kelly, 47, continued. “I learned that given the history of blackface being used in awful ways by racists in this country it is not okay for that to be part of any costume, Halloween or otherwise.”
She added: “I have never been a PC kind of person. But I do understand the value in being sensitive to our history, particularly on race and ethnicity. This past year has been painful for many people of color. The country feels so divided and I have no wish to add to that pain and offense. I believe this is a time for more understanding, more love, more sensitivity and honor. I want to be part of that. Thank you for listening and for helping me listen too.”
A panel discussion on the issue featuring Kelly, Roland Martin and Amy Holmes followed the host’s statement — with her admitting at the end, “For my part, I have been listening and learning.”
Kelly’s apology came amid backlash for her comments, which were made during a discussion about censoring Halloween costumes with Jacob Soboroff, Melissa Rivers and Jenna Bush Hager during Tuesday’s episode.
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“What is racist?” Kelly had asked. “Because truly you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who puts on white face for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay as long as you were dressing up as like a character.”
Prior to Wednesday’s show, Kelly apologized to her NBC colleagues in an internal email.
“One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions. Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views,” Kelly began in her email, obtained by PEOPLE.
“When we had the roundtable discussion earlier today about the controversy of making your face look like a different race as part of a Halloween costume, I suggested that this seemed okay if done as part of this holiday where people have the chance to make themselves look like others. The iconic Diana Ross came up as an example. To me, I thought, why would it be controversial for someone dressing up as Diana Ross to make herself look like this amazing woman as a way of honoring and respecting her?” she continued.
Kelly acknowledged that she now realizes “that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry. The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
The former Fox News anchor concluded by telling the NBC News staff that she is “honored to work with all of you every day.”