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Megyn Kelly apologizes for defending blackface Halloween costumes

NBC host Megyn Kelly apologized to colleagues on Tuesday after her comments defending racist Halloween gags ...

Posted: Oct 25, 2018 12:59 PM
Updated: Oct 25, 2018 12:59 PM

NBC host Megyn Kelly apologized to colleagues on Tuesday after her comments defending racist Halloween gags prompted an immediate backlash.

"One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions," Kelly said in the internal note, a copy of which was provided by a spokesperson for NBC. "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."

Celebrities

Megyn Kelly

Diana Ross

Discrimination

Halloween

Holidays and observances

Racism and racial discrimination

Societal issues

Society

Kelly made the offending remarks during an awkward roundtable discussion about inappropriate and offensive costumes on her eponymous one-hour block of the "Today" show, known as "Megyn Kelly Today."

During the segment on Tuesday, Kelly said it was OK when she was growing up for white people to dress up as black characters, and she spoke out against a controversy that erupted last year over a reality star who portrayed Diana Ross.

"But what is racist?" Kelly asked. "Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character."

Later in the discussion, Kelly brought up Luann de Lesseps, a star on "The Real Housewives of New York" who drew a backlash last year for dressing up as Ross.

"There was a controversy on The Real Housewives of New York with Luann, and she dressed as Diana Ross, and she made her skin look darker than it really is and people said that that was racist," Kelly said. "And I don't know, I felt like who doesn't love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don't know how, like, that got racist on Halloween."

(De Lesseps apologized for the costume, but denied altering her skin.)

Many observers were aghast at Kelly's comments, and some noted that the panel did not include a single person of color. And absent from the discussion was any mention of the ugly history of blackface, a tradition spanning centuries meant to perpetuate racist stereotypes.

But the panelists on Tuesday did not echo Kelly's point of view.

"If you think it's offensive, it probably is," said the author and television host Melissa Rivers. "Whatever happened to just, manners and polite society?"

"But on Halloween? On Halloween you've got guys running around with fake axes coming out of their head," Kelly replied. "You're going to, it's going to be jarring."

After Kelly brought up the controversy surrounding de Lesseps, another panelist, MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff piped up.

"I haven't seen it. I have not seen it, but it sounds a little racist to me," he said.

In her note to colleagues after the show aired, Kelly explained that she now understands how she erred with those comments.

"When we had the roundtable discussion earlier today about the controversy of making your face look like a different race as part of a Halloween costume, I suggested that this seemed okay if done as part of this holiday where people have the chance to make themselves look like others," she said. "The iconic Diana Ross came up as an example. 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," Kelly added. "The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep."

The response to Kelly, particularly on Twitter, was vociferous on Tuesday, with a number of celebrities joining the pile-on.

"I cannot believe the ignorance on this in 2018. You are on national television," "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi said in a tweet directed at Kelly. "You have a responsibility to educate yourself on social issues @megynkelly. This is so damaging."

For Kelly, who left Fox News in 2017 to sign a contract with NBC worth a reported $23 million a year, it was not the first time she has drawn accusations of racism. In 2013, while still an anchor at Fox, Kelly infamously addressed the ethnicity of Santa Claus.

"By the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white," she said before bringing Jesus into the discussion for good measure.

"Jesus was a white man, too," she said at the time. "He was a historical figure, that's a verifiable fact, as is Santa."

Addressing her colleagues on Tuesday, Kelly said she's "never been a 'pc' kind of person -- but I understand that we do need to be more sensitive in this day and age."

"Particularly on race and ethnicity issues which, far from being healed, have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year," Kelly said. "This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity and honor, and I want to be part of that. I look forward to continuing that discussion."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 482902

Reported Deaths: 9425
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33063488
Hinds31021589
DeSoto30610358
Jackson23687348
Rankin21340370
Lee14909220
Madison14166271
Jones13404227
Forrest13160240
Lauderdale11601305
Lowndes10443176
Lamar10214130
Pearl River9098221
Lafayette8241137
Hancock7514112
Washington7102150
Oktibbeha6964124
Monroe6514164
Neshoba6475201
Warren6464164
Pontotoc630393
Panola6250126
Marshall6126123
Bolivar6115144
Union574186
Pike5613136
Alcorn537290
Lincoln5303131
George471472
Scott459196
Leflore4476140
Prentiss446779
Tippah446480
Itawamba4444100
Adams4416116
Tate4394101
Simpson4335112
Wayne433066
Copiah431787
Yazoo423386
Covington415792
Sunflower4148104
Marion4099104
Leake397586
Coahoma3957100
Newton370875
Grenada3556104
Stone350860
Tishomingo336289
Attala325387
Jasper314162
Winston304691
Clay296473
Chickasaw287065
Clarke282190
Calhoun266141
Holmes262187
Smith250649
Yalobusha221047
Tallahatchie220450
Walthall211058
Greene209045
Lawrence206833
Perry199953
Amite198452
Webster196542
Noxubee178939
Montgomery172454
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162137
Tunica153334
Benton142535
Kemper138640
Choctaw127026
Claiborne126834
Humphreys126637
Franklin116728
Quitman103926
Wilkinson101936
Jefferson91333
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 789054

Reported Deaths: 14022
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1115991765
Mobile708511234
Madison49865633
Shelby36274315
Baldwin36242495
Tuscaloosa33931548
Montgomery33190678
Lee22680220
Calhoun21211410
Morgan19816335
Etowah19300462
Marshall17680274
Houston16823386
St. Clair15442305
Cullman14602258
Limestone14581188
Elmore14480264
Lauderdale13520281
Talladega12958236
DeKalb12199237
Walker10588330
Blount9720157
Autauga9667137
Jackson9385158
Coffee8882175
Dale8609173
Colbert8534184
Tallapoosa6673181
Escambia6591121
Covington6452167
Chilton6385144
Russell607255
Franklin5795101
Chambers5416134
Marion4800120
Dallas4705189
Clarke463279
Pike462397
Geneva4413117
Winston425895
Lawrence4117108
Bibb409381
Barbour347270
Marengo326285
Monroe320053
Butler318290
Randolph305956
Pickens305274
Henry301858
Hale292685
Cherokee289855
Fayette279673
Washington245448
Crenshaw238470
Cleburne235851
Clay228565
Macon220158
Lamar197743
Conecuh182046
Lowndes170758
Coosa170235
Wilcox159736
Bullock149243
Perry136537
Sumter124536
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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