How does NBC explain their blatant sexism in regard to the firing of Megyn Kelly for talking about blackface while keeping Jimmy Fallon on the air, who actually wore blackface? ABC is also to blame since they have decided to keep Jimmy Kimmel in spite of his blackface rendition of Karl Malone, amongst other black celebrities. Where is the public outcry in response to the unconcealed hypocrisy in the punishment of an outspoken woman versus two prominent men?
In 2018, Megyn Kelly was promptly cancelled by NBC for making comments on the use of blackface and whiteface, the acts of applying colored makeup to portray a different race. On Tuesday October 23, 2018, Megyn discussed the topic of blackface on her morning show Megyn Kelly Today, the third hour of the popular Today Show. Megyn stated:
“But what is racist? 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.”Megyn Kelly discussing blackface on her show “Megyn Kelly Today” from October 23, 2018
The backlash was swift and severe with many news outlets labeling her a racist. Megyn apologized to her colleagues in an internal memo the same night the blackface comments were aired on her show. The very next day on Wednesday October 24, Megyn’s Today Show colleague Al Roker publicly shamed her for the controversial comments, deeming her apology insufficient.
“The fact is, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the county. This is a history, going back to the 1830s [with] minstrel shows. To demean and denigrate a race wasn’t right. I’m old enough to have lived through Amos ‘n’ Andy where you had white people in blackface playing two black characters just magnifying the stereotypes about black people. And that’s what the big problem is. … No good comes from it. It’s just not right.”– Al Roker on the Today Show condemning Kelly’s comments
Kelly returned on air just a couple hours after Roker’s comments and apologized to the public at the beginning of her show, just 24 hours after the original blackface comments were made. This would be the last time Megyn Kelly would appear on the network.
“I want to begin with two words: I’m sorry. You may have heard that yesterday we had a discussion here about political correctness and Halloween costumes and that conversation turned to whether it is ever okay for a person of one race to dress up as another, a black person making their face lighter or a white person making theirs darker, to make a costume complete. I defended the idea, saying as long it was respectful and part of a Halloween costume, it seemed okay. Well, I was wrong, and I am sorry. One of the great parts of sitting in this chair each day is getting to discuss points of view. Sometimes I talk and sometimes I listen, and yesterday I learned. I learned that given the history of blackface being used in awful ways by racists in this country, it is not okay for that to be part of any costume, Halloween or otherwise. I have never been a PC kind of person, but I do understand the value of being sensitive to our history, particularly on race and ethnicity. This past year has been so painful for many people of color. The country feels so divided and I have no wish to add to that pain and offense. I believe this is a time for more understanding, more love, more sensitivity and honor, and I want to be part of that. Thank you for listening and for helping me listen too.”Megyn Kelly apologizing on her show “Megyn Kelly Today” on Oct 24, 2018, her last appearance on NBC network
On that same day, Wednesday Oct 24th, her talent agency CAA dropped her as a client (CAA still represents Fallon). Kelly did not return to the air for her show on Thursday October 25th, and NBC started to reassign her show staff to other programs. By Friday October 26, 2016, Megyn Kelly Today was officially cancelled by NBC, just three days after her original blackface comments aired. She never returned to NBC, yet they were required to pay Kelly the total of her 69-million-dollar three year contract.
The images of Fallon’s blackface impression resurfaced again in May 2020 and on May 26, 2020 Jimmy Fallon finally addressed how sorry he was for his impression of Chris Rock in a tweet, after years of silence on the issue.
“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this, I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”Jimmy Fallon in a tweet on May 26, 2020, one day after George Floyd’s death.
This was not the first time Fallon has been called out for this exact topic. In 2019, Nick Cannon posted on Instagram an image of Fallon as Chris Rock, however, Fallon did not apologize in this instance. Fallon only recently apologized for the resurfacing of this past skit one day after George Floyd was killed. The general public has been exceedingly eager to “cancel” those they deem racist, especially after the death of George Floyd. It would appear Fallon only apologized now to save his career. He has had a full 20 years to apologize, and only did so when the cancel mob came for his NBC show.
Another popular late-night personality embroiled in a blackface controversy is Jimmy Kimmel, currently the host of Jimmy Kimmel Tonight on ABC. Kimmel has derogatorily portrayed former basketball legend Karl Malone for many years. Kimmel, a white man, has used broken, impeded, and drawled speech to characterize the famous black basketball player, Malone, portraying him as slow or stupid. In one of these Malone skits, Kimmel offensively jokes:
“Sometime at night, Karl Malone look up at the sky and say what duh hell goin’ on up der?”- Jimmy Kimmel condescendingly impersonating Karl Malone on “The Man Show”
The Malone impersonation started on a radio show Kimmel hosted and was carried over for many years on his Comedy Central show titled “The Man Show.” In another Malone inspired skit, Kimmel walks around the street and daringly asks women to touch his pants, all while in full blackface. Kimmel also impersonated Oprah Winfrey using a vibrator while in blackface on his Comedy Central show.
How are there grounds for the firing and removal of a woman who merely mentioned that she believed blackface was “OK” during childhood, as long as it was paying homage to a character? She did not claim that she portrayed blackface herself, rather she was speaking to society’s perception of its morality. Yet, when two males actually depict a character in blackface, and make fun of those characters using stereotypical black tropes, it is deemed acceptable. If NBC and ABC condone the actions of their two male stars, is that not validating Megyn’s thought that blackface and whiteface are indeed “ok” when you are portraying a character?
The popular saying “actions speak louder than words” is apparently lost on NBC and ABC. The actions of two male stars were regarded as less acrimonious, less racist, less bigoted, than the words of an opinionated female talk show host referring to memories of others wearing blackface from childhood. If Megyn was a man, would she have been supported the way Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel were? Why is a woman cancelled while two men’s significantly more egregious dealings with blackface are forgiven? What are your thoughts?