Let’s just call it what it is. Trying on someone’s skin color as a “joke” isn’t really comedy; it’s racism. While Jimmy Kimmel’s blackface sketch apology barely scratches the surface of that conversation, the night show host has started to reflect on the “thoughtless” nature of his past actions in a new statement issued June 23.
“I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us,” the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host began. “That delay was a mistake. There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.”
Not only does the 52-year-old TV personality’s mea culpa continue to take the form of a typical, “sorry if I hurt your feelings” approach—he later goes on to attempt an explanation for his actions. Kimmel references his impersonations of Los Angeles Lakers player, Karl Malone, whom he represented in blackface on TV in the 1990s.
“On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone. In the late 90s, I continued impersonating Malone on TV,” Kimmel’s statement reads. “We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible. I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl’s skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head.”
He added that his impressions went on to include “dozens” of famous figures, and he never thought of representing them any differently on the basis of their race. “In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more,” he explained.
“Looking back, many of these sketches are embarrassing, and it is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices,” Kimmel wrote, likely referencing Donald J. Trump Jr.’s recent Twitter dig at the comedian. “I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last twenty-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show. I know that this will not be the last I hear of this and that it will be used again to try to quiet me. I love this country too much to allow that. I won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas.”
The host also confirmed that his recent decision to take a summer hiatus from Jimmy Kimmel Live! was planned long before criticisms over his sketches emerged.
“My summer vacation has been planned for more than a year and includes the next two summers off as well. I will be back to work in September. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I’ve disappointed, I am sorry,” concluded his statement. “Sincerely, Jimmy Kimmel.”
This apology comes amid separate criticisms of the TV host for his “joke” about director Michael Bay’s apparent sexualization of actress Megan Fox. While the actress has since spoken out to clarify her relationship with the director, social media users continue to discuss the ways in which men in power—such as Kimmel—seem to brush off these conversations.