Jimmy Kimmel Apologizes for 'Embarrassing' Old Blackface Sketches: 'I Have Evolved and Matured'

"I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being," he said in a statement

Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel. Photo: Jeff Lipsky/ABC

Jimmy Kimmel is apologizing for the recently resurfaced sketches of him in blackface.

The Jimmy Kimmel Live! host issued a lengthy statement on Tuesday addressing the controversy, less than a week after announcing he would be taking the rest of the summer off to spend time with his family.

"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," began Kimmel, 52. "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."

Kimmel went on to address the sketches, which originated from The Man Show, Kimmel's comedy series with Adam Carolla that aired from 1999 to 2004 on Comedy Central.

"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," he said. "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," he continued. "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 said he has grown since then and took aim at his right-wing critics, which include Donald Trump Jr., for what he called "feigned outrage." Kimmel has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration.

"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," he added. "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."

After Kimmel's vacation announcement last week, speculation had surfaced online that the comedian was trying to avoid backlash from the blackface videos. In his statement Tuesday, he concluded by noting that his summer vacation had "been planned for more than a year and includes the next two summers off as well."

"I will be back to work in September," he said. "Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I've disappointed, I am sorry."

The controversy comes amid a global discussion surrounding race, as well as protests against systemic racism and police brutality, sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

Last month, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon also apologized for a blackface skit he did on Saturday Night Live in 2000.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.
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