Jimmy Kimmel apologises for ’embarrassing’ blackface sketches

Jimmy Kimmel apologises for ’embarrassing’ blackface sketches
The 89th Academy Awards – Vanity Fair Party – Los Angeles

Jimmy Kimmel has apologised for using blackface make-up to impersonate stars including Snoop Dogg and Oprah Winfrey.

The US TV host said he had “thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more”, but wanted to say sorry to those who had been “genuinely hurt or offended”.

The 52-year-old said he had delayed apologising because he thought that 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 added: “That delay was a mistake.”

Kimmel hosts a late-night talk show on US channel ABC and hosted the Oscars in 2017 and 2018.

During Comedy Central’s The Man Show, which aired between 1999 and 2004, he also impersonated basketball player Karl Malone.

Kimmel said his impression of Malone, known as the Mailman, started on the radio.

He said: “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 make-up 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 colour than it did his bulging muscles and bald head.

Oprah Winfrey (Ian West/PA)

“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.”

Kimmel said he believed he had “evolved and matured over the last 20 years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show”.

His use of blackface make-up came under renewed scrutiny after fellow presenter Jimmy Fallon issued a similar apology in May.

In the UK, Little Britain creators David Walliams and Matt Lucas, and Ant and Dec, have apologised for imitating people of other races.

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