Megyn Kelly apologized to colleagues after making controversial comments about blackface on live television.
An emotional Megyn Kelly said she has learned from the backlash over her comments defending blackface.
“I want to begin with two words: I’m sorry,” she said at the top of Wednesday morning’s show. “You may have heard that yesterday we had a conversation about political correctness and Halloween costumes… I defended the idea (of blackface), saying that as long it was respectful and part of a Halloween costume, that it seemed OK. Well, I was wrong, and I am sorry.”
Kelly said “I have never been a PC kind of person” but she learned from the uproar over her statements that “it is not OK for (blackface) to be part of any costume, Halloween or otherwise.”
The “Today” host appeared emotional, her voice breaking as she addressed the widespread criticism she’d received following Tuesday’s episode of her show.
“This past year has been so painful for many people of color,” she continued. “The country feels so divided and I have no wish to add to that pain and offense. I believe this is a time for more understanding, more love, more sensitivity and honor, and I want to be part of that. Thank you for listening and for helping me listen too.”
Following her statement, Kelly led a panel with Roland Martin, of “Roland Martin Unfiltered,” about the history of blackface. Amy Holmes, from PBS’ “In Principle,” also joined the Kelly for the conversation.
At the conclusion of the panel, Kelly insisted: “For my part, I have been listening and learning, and I am grateful to both of you to have this conversation here on this set today. And to those who reached out to me via Twitter, I’ve heard you too.”
Kelly originally provoked a wave of backlash when, during a round-table discussion on Tuesday’s show, she claimed that blackface was “OK when I was a kid as long as you were dressing like a character.”
In the round-table conversation, she defended “Real Housewives of New York” star Luann de Lesseps, who was accused of darkening her skin while dressing up as Diana Ross for Halloween last year.
“And people said that that was racist. And I don’t know!” she said about de Lesseps. “I thought like, who doesn’t love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day, and I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween.”
Critics of Kelly’s comments included the “Today” show’s Al Roker and Craig Melvin, who condemned her comments earlier Wednesday in the hour leading into “Megyn Kelly Today.”
“The fact is, while she apologized to the (NBC) staff, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country,” Roker said. “This is a history going back to the 1830s minstrel shows to demean and denigrate a race. It wasn’t right.”
Melvin added: “She said something stupid; she said something indefensible… I guess it was an opportunity for us to learn a little bit more about blackface – but I think a lot of people knew about blackface.”
In response to the controversy that followed her comments, Kelly sent an internal memo to her “friends & teammates” Tuesday, which USA TODAY obtained.
“One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions,” Kelly wrote. “Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views.”
“The iconic Diana Ross came up as an example,” she continued. “To me, I thought, why would it be controversial for someone dressing up as Diana Ross to make herself look like this amazing woman as a way of honoring and respecting her?”
“I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry,” she wrote. “The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
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