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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: 338079

Reported Deaths: 7523
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23409440
DeSoto23069280
Harrison20064328
Rankin15119290
Jackson14743251
Madison10806227
Lee10568179
Jones8864169
Forrest8408159
Lauderdale7684243
Lowndes6917151
Lamar683789
Lafayette6502124
Washington5551139
Pearl River5060150
Bolivar4923134
Oktibbeha484798
Panola4739112
Warren4690127
Marshall4670106
Pontotoc442873
Monroe4293137
Union429179
Neshoba4232181
Hancock417788
Lincoln4148116
Pike3605113
Leflore3587125
Tate351488
Alcorn346474
Sunflower344994
Adams338488
Scott336676
Yazoo335673
Simpson319290
Copiah319068
Itawamba312480
Coahoma311585
Tippah300568
Prentiss295063
Covington287183
Marion281780
Leake281575
Wayne274643
Grenada267588
George266251
Newton258964
Tishomingo238070
Winston236284
Jasper227548
Attala223373
Stone219437
Chickasaw217560
Holmes197674
Clay194654
Clarke184480
Tallahatchie182742
Calhoun179432
Smith177535
Yalobusha170240
Walthall144448
Lawrence140026
Greene137634
Amite135643
Noxubee134235
Perry132438
Montgomery131544
Carroll125431
Webster119132
Jefferson Davis114234
Tunica113227
Benton105925
Claiborne104831
Kemper101429
Humphreys99833
Franklin86723
Quitman84319
Choctaw81819
Wilkinson76532
Jefferson70428
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 574737

Reported Deaths: 11492
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson839571589
Mobile46611857
Madison36938532
Tuscaloosa26841465
Shelby26769255
Montgomery25853624
Baldwin24213326
Lee16897181
Calhoun15210332
Morgan14990289
Etowah14721369
Marshall12855235
Houston11661292
Elmore10727217
St. Clair10587250
Limestone10535158
Cullman10323204
Lauderdale10044253
DeKalb9335191
Talladega8797187
Walker7659286
Autauga7456114
Jackson7295117
Blount7233139
Colbert6614142
Coffee6117131
Dale5393117
Russell467742
Chilton4666117
Covington4623125
Franklin447281
Tallapoosa4420157
Escambia425282
Chambers3880125
Dallas3707163
Clarke366462
Marion3413106
Pike326979
Lawrence3211101
Winston293972
Bibb282965
Geneva274283
Marengo259067
Barbour245161
Pickens239662
Butler237672
Hale232378
Fayette225064
Henry206645
Randolph196144
Monroe195041
Cherokee194548
Washington179339
Macon168352
Crenshaw165058
Clay163659
Cleburne159945
Lamar149738
Lowndes144854
Wilcox129831
Bullock126042
Conecuh119530
Coosa116729
Perry109928
Sumter108732
Greene98336
Choctaw63925
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Thursday will be another very hot and very humid day across Mississippi and Alabama. Many areas will be well above 100 degrees with the heat index, some even as high as 120 degrees in the Delta of Mississippi.
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