“This is a history going back to the 1830s -- minstrel shows -- to demean and denigrate a race wasn’t right,” Al Roker said. ““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 worst stereotypes about black people. And that’s what the big problem is and that’s what the issue is.”
Co-host Craig Melvin responded to claims by some that criticism of blackface is “political correctness run amok.”
“That’s silly, and it’s disingenuous, and it’s just as ignorant and racist as the statement itself,” Melvin said.
Watch Kelly's full apology below.
Megyn Kelly made headlines Tuesday for comments she made on her NBC show "Megyn Kelly Today" about wearing blackface for Halloween.
During a panel discussion on her show, the journalist discussed costumes for the holiday, specifically highlighting the controversy around blackface.
Kelly questioned the protests about wearing blackface.
“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 that puts on whiteface for Halloween,” she said. “And back when I was a kid, that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
Blackface's origins can be traced to minstrel shows from the 19th century, where white actors used black grease paint on their faces to depict and mock plantation slaves and free blacks on stage. In recent years, the issue has resurfaced and made headlines in cases where white people − from college students to celebrities − have emulated black actors, singers and athletes by using makeup to appear darker.
During Kelly’s panel discussion Tuesday, she brought up one such instance of that, referencing a scene from “The Real Housewives of New York,” where one of the white castmates, Luann de Lesseps, dressed up as Diana Ross by applying darker make-up and sporting an afro wig.
“There was a controversy on 'The Real Housewives of New York' with Luann (de Lesseps). She dressed as Diana Ross, and she made her skin look darker than it really is. And people said that that was racist. And I don’t know,” she continued. “I thought like, who doesn’t love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day, and I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween.”
>> On AJC.com: Why do white people keep dressing in blackface?
Soon after the segment aired, folks on social media sent a barrage of tweets condemning her. Many disagreed with her remarks about blackface being OK when they were children.
Others called her opinions problematic, stating she was “ignorant” and “racist.”
And a few attempted to school her on the history of blackface and how to portray African-American figures without darkening their skin.
>> On AJC.com: White blogger creates 'chocolate challenge' that some say is blackface
Amid the backlash, Kelly issued an apology by sending an internal email to her colleagues and friends.
“One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions. 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,” she wrote. “I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry. The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
See the full statement below: