"There has never been a time in her 47 years that blackface has been acceptable," Don Lemon said
During a segment with host Chris Cuomo on Tuesday night, Lemon, 52, condemned the former Fox News host, who drew ire that morning when she questioned whether wearing blackface as part of a Halloween costume is actually racist during a segment on her show.
She and an all-white panel were discussing campus attempts to discourage “inappropriate and offensive costumes” when Kelly asked: “But what is racist? 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 whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay as long as you were dressing up as like a character.”
“How much time do you have, Chris?” Lemon said when asked for his take on the controversy. “We do this every day, sometimes you say stupid things when you’re live. But I’m just going to be honest. Megyn is 47 years old — she’s our age. There has never been a time in her 47 years that blackface has been acceptable.”
“There were all white people on that panel. There were no African Americans, no people of color to say, ‘Hey, Megyn, not cool,’ ” Lemon continued. “I wonder how much diversity she has on her staff. I don’t know, I’m not there, but I would imagine there is not a lot because people would have informed her. This is what people of the larger culture don’t understand about racism and about privilege. I don’t know many black people who are trying to be white people for Halloween, or dressing up as white people. But I know a lot of people who do it for black people.”
Lemon said Kelly “is not aware of the history of this country,” pointing to her oft-ridiculed declarations on Fox News that Santa Claus is white.
“It’s not a one-off,” he said. “Remember the whole Santa Claus thing, which was offensive? I think people really need to educate themselves about this particular issue, and we need to realize in this culture that some people do have a privilege where they don’t have to think about it. It does not exist to them.”
“Megyn has taken over for what used to be an African-American woman and a black man who had that slot, and who actually did better than her in the ratings, and who, in this situation, would have said: ‘It is never okay to do blackface,’ ” he said. “There would not be this controversy. So diversity is key.”
“The people who are hiring people like Megyn, like me and you, should realize how important diversity is,” he continued. “How important it is for their talent to know the history of this country and not say stupid thing like, ‘It’s okay, it’s always been okay for people to dress up as long as they’re honoring and memorializing people.’ It’s never okay.”
The outcry over Kelly’s remarks persists on social media, and even her NBC colleagues have condemned her harshly on-air. Craig Melvin called her remarks “indefensible” as well as “ignorant and racist,” and Al Roker insisted she “owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country.”
Kelly, 47, has apologized twice — first in an internal email to colleagues and then on-air — but the backlash continues to heighten, and questions about her future at the network loom, especially with the morning show just days away from its annual Halloween special.
Thursday and Friday’s broadcast of her 9 a.m. show hour have been replaced with pre-taped episodes in the wake of the controversy.
“Given the circumstances, Megyn Kelly Today will be on tape the rest of the week,” an NBC spokesperson confirmed to PEOPLE on Thursday.
A source also told PEOPLE Kelly’s departure from Today is expected by the end of the season in December.
Additionally, Kelly and her agency CAA have also parted ways, the talent agency confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. A source told PEOPLE that Kelly was fired from CAA because of conflicts of interest they had with NBC.