STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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: 252475

Reported Deaths: 5521
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17120175
Hinds16207322
Harrison13353193
Rankin10689211
Jackson10303183
Lee8796141
Madison8232162
Jones6288110
Forrest5949119
Lauderdale5847180
Lowndes5355116
Lafayette494292
Lamar484165
Washington4777123
Bolivar3966108
Oktibbeha392480
Panola368378
Pontotoc362853
Monroe3533105
Warren348498
Union343060
Marshall341665
Neshoba3370152
Pearl River327899
Leflore3002105
Lincoln297085
Sunflower282669
Tate270862
Hancock266559
Alcorn263253
Itawamba262459
Pike262077
Scott246245
Prentiss245052
Yazoo244355
Copiah240849
Tippah240450
Simpson234867
Leake230564
Coahoma230054
Grenada217770
Covington211371
Marion210672
Adams204670
Winston200164
Wayne199630
George199038
Attala193559
Newton191342
Tishomingo184459
Chickasaw183644
Jasper169735
Holmes168567
Clay159033
Stone142320
Tallahatchie140134
Clarke138660
Calhoun135721
Smith120123
Yalobusha116534
Walthall111836
Noxubee110322
Greene109729
Montgomery109434
Carroll104221
Lawrence102417
Perry101631
Amite97725
Webster92224
Tunica86321
Claiborne86125
Jefferson Davis84125
Humphreys82924
Benton81523
Kemper77120
Quitman6888
Franklin66415
Choctaw60313
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53819
Sharkey42717
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
31° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 31°
Columbus
Clear
31° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 31°
Oxford
Clear
25° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 25°
Starkville
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 28°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather