Jimmy Kimmel apologized for his impersonation of NBA star Karl Malone, which featured the comedian in blackface, on The Man Show. The Man Show, a sketch comedy series hosted by Kimmel and Adam Carolla on Comedy Central, ran from 1999-2003 but Kimmel's impersonation of Karl Malone originated on KROQ radio in the mid-90s.
"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," said Kimmel via statement. "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."
Kimmel went on to add, "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. I've done dozens of impressions of famous people, including Snoop Dogg, Oprah, Eminem, Dick Vitale, Rosie, and many others. In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more. 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."
Clips of Kimmel in blackface from The Man Show have resurfaced several times throughout Kimmel's career, but this is the first time Kimmel has addressed the issue. The controversy is especially relevant in contrast to the late night host's monologues and social media, which feature advocacy of Black Lives Matter protests that are currently sweeping the country in the wake of decades of police brutality against Black Americans. "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," said Kimmel. "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."
Kimmel is going on a previously scheduled vacation with his family for the next three months and Jimmy Kimmel Live! will be hosted by rotating guest hosts. Kimmel will be back in the hosting seat in September and told Deadline that his absence has nothing to do with increased internet attention on his blackface sketch.