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Jimmy Kimmel apologizes for 'embarrassing' blackface sketches

The late night host apologized for sketches in which he performed as former NBA star Karl Malone in blackface during Kimmel's time on "The Man Show" in the early 2000s.
/ Source: TODAY

Jimmy Kimmel has apologized for blackface sketches of former NBA star Karl Malone from Kimmel's time on "The Man Show" by saying they were "thoughtless" and embarrassing."

The late-night talk show host addressed the controversy that involved his time on the Comedy Central show he hosted with Adam Carolla from 1999 to 2003.

American Film Institute's 46th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to George Clooney - Backstage
Jimmy Kimmel has apologized for blackface sketches he did on Comedy Central's "The Man Show." Emma McIntyre / Getty Images for Turner

"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," he said in a statement. "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."

The impersonation of Malone began during Kimmel's time on the Los Angeles radio station KROQ in the 1990s and continued on "The Man Show."

"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," Kimmel said. "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.

"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. 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."

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Kimmel is currently on a break from his ABC talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" in what he said in his statement is a summer vacation that has been planned for more than a year. He will return in September.

"Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I’ve disappointed, I am sorry," he said.

Kimmel's apology comes after fellow late-night host Jimmy Fallon apologized last month after a 20-year-old video resurfaced showing him wearing blackface and doing an impression of Chris Rock on "Saturday Night Live."

On Tuesday, Tina Fey announced that old episodes of "30 Rock" that feature characters in blackface will be removed from syndication and streaming services by her request.