Jimmy Kimmel Apologizes for Use of Blackface on ‘The Man Show’

Jimmy Kimmel ABC
Walt Disney Television/Yolanda Perez

Jimmy Kimmel has issued an apology for using blackface as part of his impersonation of NBA player Karl Malone on The Man Show, which premiered on Comedy Central in 1999.

He began his apology by calling his “delay” in addressing it a “mistake.” “I knew [addressing it] 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 his statement. “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.”

He first did an impression of Malone on KROQ radio in the ’90s before bringing it to television. “We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible. 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,” he said.

Kimmel added that he’s thought of his “impressions”—for celebrities “including Snoop Dogg, Oprah, Eminem, Dick Vitale, Rosie, and many others”—as only “impersonations,” but now he calls “many of these sketches … embarrassing.” “It is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices,” he said.

Jimmy Kimmel Host Emmys

(ABC/Jeff Lipsky)

According to the late-night host, he’s “evolved and matured” since then and “won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas.” He concluded his statement by addressing his summer hiatus—”planned for more than a year,” he said—and with “to those I’ve disappointed, I am sorry.”

This comes a month after another late-night host, NBC’s Jimmy Fallon, apologized for his “terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface” on Saturday Night Live in 2000. Tina Fey also issued an apology for 30 Rock episodes with characters in blackface as NBCUniversal removed those four from streaming and syndication.