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Video: Connick disgusted by Jackson parody

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    >>> community.

    >>> but let us begin this half hour with harry connick jr . getting more than he bargained for during an appearance as a guest judge on a popular australian variety show . "today" national correspondent natalie morales has that story. natalie, good morning to you.

    >> and good morning to you, matt. harry connick jr . agreed to be a judge on the reunion of the popular show "hey, hey, it's saturday" last night, but when one of the group of performers showed up in black face , connick not only looked stunned, but he was certainly not left speechless.

    >> the jackson jive.

    >> reporter: it seemed innocent enough, a jackson 5 imitation, but when contestants in a group called jackson jive showed up in black face -- *

    >> everybody, sing with me!

    >> reporter: -- harry connick jr . was visibly uncomfortable throughout the performance. a fellow judge --

    >> i thought you were very cute.

    >> reporter: -- seemed unfazed. then it was connick 's turn.

    >> give them a three or four for showing up?

    >> man, if they turned up looking like that in the united states . it's like, hey, hey, there's no more show.

    >> reporter: connick gave the group a zero for starters and reportedly walked off the set during a commercial break. he later came back to an apology from the show's host.

    >> your countryman, that's an insult to, you know, have a black-face routine like that on the show.

    >> right, right.

    >> so, i do apologize to you.

    >> we spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons that when we see something like that, we take it really to heart. if i knew that was going to be a part of the show, i probably -- i definitely wouldn't have done it.

    >> reporter: but later, connick 's own past came back to haunt him.

    >> all right.

    >> i have to speak my mind .

    >> break it down for them now.

    >> in a skit for fox's mad tv , connick impersonalities a southern black minister. when the clip resurfaced in response to the controversy, some critics have called harry connick jr . a hypocrite.

    >> 24 hours a day.

    >> reporter: connick has said he has no bad feelings toward the show.

    >> everybody's got their own way of looking at things.

    >> reporter: but stands by his objections to what he called a mistake in judgment. well, members of that group now say that they flagged potential issues with the show's producers ahead of time, and the man who portrayed michael jackson said it wasn't meant to be racist, but a tribute to michael jackson , and he thinks harry connick jr . is "taking it the wrong way." matt?

    >> all right, natalie, thank you very much.

updated 10/8/2009 8:09:10 AM ET 2009-10-08T12:09:10

An Australian variety show host has apologized for a skit in which singers parodying the Jackson Five performed in blackface.

American singer and actor Harry Connick Jr., who was serving as a guest judge on Wednesday night's "Hey Hey It's Saturday," was visibly shocked by the skit, in which four men with afro wigs and blackface sang and danced behind a Michael Jackson impersonator wearing white makeup.

Connick, 42, gave the performance a zero score and told them that if it had been done in the United States it would have been pulled off the air.

Blackface was a traditional trope of minstrel shows in the U.S. that dates to the 19th century. Whites playing stock black characters — usually offensive stereotypes meant to demean — rubbed coal, grease or shoe polish on their faces. Blackface performances are not common in Australia.

Public reaction to the "Hey Hey" performance in online forums was mixed. Some Australians said they were embarrassed such a racist sketch had been broadcast, while others said detractors were too politically correct and that the skit was funny.

Michael Jackson died June 25 at age 50.

'Disgusting'
At a news conference on other issues Thursday morning, opposition politician Helen Coonan labeled the skit "disgusting."

Host Daryl Somers apologized to Connick at the end of the live show.

"I know that to your countrymen, that's an insult to have a blackface routine like that on the show, so I do apologize to you," Somers said.

Connick said he would not have appeared on the show if he'd known about the skit.

"I just want to say, on behalf of my country, I know it was done humorously, but we've spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart," he told Somers after his apology.

Anand Deva, the frontman of the "Jackson Jive" act, said it was not meant to cause offense but added he would not have performed it in the United States.

"Hey Hey" ran for 27 years starting in 1971. The "Jackson Jive" group first appeared on the show 20 years ago and were invited back to reprise their roles during the second of two reunion shows for the once-popular program.

More on: Michael Jackson | Harry Connick Jr.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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