Jimmy Kimmel Apologizes for Using Blackface to Impersonate Karl Malone

Jimmy Kimmel Blackface

Jimmy Kimmel has issued an apology for a recurring Man Show sketch in which he used blackface to impersonate NBA player Karl Malone.

“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,” Kimmel said in a 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 says he began impersonating Malone on KROQ radio in the mid-90s, a bit that eventually made its way to The Man Show, which Kimmel co-hosted with Adam Carolla on Comedy Central from 1999 to 2003.

“We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible,” he explains. “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.”

He continues, “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.”

Though some have speculated that the host’s summer-long absence from Jimmy Kimmel Live! was an attempt to avoid scrutiny for this recently resurfaced sketch, he explains, “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.”

Kimmel is the latest comedian to be called out for using blackface in recent weeks. Fellow late-night host Jimmy Fallon recently apologized for employing blackface to impersonate Chris Rock in 2000 on Saturday Night Live, while multiple episodes of 30 Rock have been pulled from streaming and syndication for their use of blackface.

Watch Kimmel’s impression of Malone below, then drop a comment with your thoughts.