TV | June 24, 2020 6:21 am

Jimmy Kimmel Under Fire for Past Use of Blackface, Racial Slurs

The late-night host, currently on an extended break, issued an apology addressing the controversy

Keep Memory Alive Honors Neil Diamond At 24th Annual Power Of Love® - Inside
Jimmy Kimmel speaks at the 24th annual Keep Memory Alive 'Power of Love Gala' benefit for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 07, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Keep Memory Alive

In recent years, Jimmy Kimmel has emerged as an unlikely progressive voice on late-night television. For viewers who remember his stint as co-host of The Man Show, which aired from 1999 to 2004, this was especially surprising, given that The Man Show‘s politics and brand of humor often veered into reprehensible territory. But people do change over time, and Kimmel’s own personal evolution has always seemed genuine.

That doesn’t mean that his past doesn’t contain a raft of ill-advised decisions, however — nor does it make him immune from being asked to account for his earlier behavior. That’s what prompted Kimmel to apologize for a number of incidents from his comedy earlier in his career, including a blackface impression of Karl Malone.

At Deadline, Peter White has more details about the apology. “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 his statement. “That delay was a mistake.”

Kimmel has also been criticized for use of a racial slur as part of a sketch in 1996. While his statement about the ill-conceived Malone impression did not address this directly, he also spoke more broadly about his attitudes having shifted over time. “I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last 20-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show,” he said.

How audiences will react remains to be seen; Kimmel is taking the summer off from hosting to spend more time with his family.

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