US TV host Jimmy Kimmel has apologised for using make-up to impersonate black stars like Snoop Dogg, Oprah Winfrey and basketball player Karl Malone.
Kimmel said he had thought of his performances as “impersonations of celebrities and nothing more”.
But, looking back, he admitted they were “embarrassing” and described them as “thoughtless moments”.
He said sorry “to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the make-up I wore or the words I spoke”.
Kimmel fronts a late-night talk show on ABC and hosted the Oscars in 2017 and 2018.
He had been under pressure to address his past use of blackface, especially after fellow presenter Jimmy Fallon issued a similar apology last month.
It has also just been revealed that Tina Fey asked for four episodes of sitcom 30 Rock in which characters appear in blackface to be taken down.
Delay ‘a mistake’
Kimmel said he had been reluctant to speak about his sketches, however, because he thought that “would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us”. He added: “That delay was a mistake.”
In a statement on Tuesday, he explained that he did an impression of former NBA star Malone on his radio show in the 1990s, and continued to impersonate the sportsman when he moved onto TV.
“We hired make-up 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 colour 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.”
He added that he believed he had “evolved and matured” over the past two decades.
“Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I’ve disappointed, I am sorry,” he concluded.
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