Megyn Kelly in hot water for blackface comment

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

Posted: Oct 25, 2018 3:39 AM
Updated: Oct 25, 2018 3:54 AM

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."

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: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
Pearl River4499145
Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
Covington256381
George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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