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Megyn Kelly Addresses Blackface Comment: I Was Wrong and I'm Sorry

"I learned that given the history of using blackface in awful ways by racists in this country it is not OK for that to be a part of any costume, Halloween or otherwise," Kelly said on her show Wednesday

NBC's Megyn Kelly apologized Wednesday for a morning show segment where she had questioned why dressing up in blackface for a Halloween costume is inappropriate.

Kelly conceded that she was wrong for suggesting it was OK to lighten or darken one's skin in order to "make a costume complete."  

"One of the greatest parts of sitting in this chair everyday is getting to discuss different points of view, sometimes I talk and sometimes I listen, and yesterday I learned," Kelly said at the top of her show. "I learned that given the history of using blackface in awful ways by racists in this country it is not OK for that to be a part of any costume, Halloween or otherwise."  

She continued, "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 a part of that," Kelly said. "Thank you for listening and for helping me listen too."

Following her on-air statement Wednesday, Kelly led a panel about race and the history of blackface with Roland Martin, of "Roland Martin Unfiltered," and Amy Holmes, from PBS' "In Principle."

"There are lines, and there's history, and there's pain. And when we acknowledge that, then we can learn and grow from it," Martin said.

On Kelly's morning show Tuesday, the 47-year-old news host had said that dressing up in blackface was OK when she was a kid as long as you were impersonating a character. She questioned why it had been considered racist when a character on "The Real Housewives of New York" darkened her skin for a Diana Ross costume.

"I felt like, 'Who doesn't love Diana Ross?'" she said.

Her public apology mirrored a note she wrote to NBC News colleagues Tuesday evening in which she expressed regret for her comments following a social media backlash. She wrote that she realized such behavior is wrong, that the history of blackface in culture is abhorrent.

In her email to NBC colleagues, Kelly wrote that she'd never been a "PC" person, "but I understand that we do need to be more sensitive in this day and age. Particularly on race and ethnicity issues which, far from being healed, have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year.

Earlier Wednesday, "Today" show weatherman Al Roker said while Kelly apologized to staffers at NBC, she owed a "bigger apology to folks of color around the country." Roker pointed to the origins of blackface which can be traced to minstrel shows from the 19th century, where white actors used black grease paint on their faces to depict and mock slaves and free blacks.

"I’m old enough to have lived through 'Amos and Andy,' where you had white people in black face playing two black characters just magnifying the worst stereotypes of black people and that's what the big problem is and that’s what the big issue is," Roker said.

On social media, several critics drew comparisons to Kelly's insistence while at Fox News Channel that Santa Claus was white.

"I was born in the same decade as Megyn Kelly and do not recall blackface being acceptable anywhere, anytime," tweeted Alex Wagner of CBS News.

"I cannot believe the ignorance on this in 2018," "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi wrote on Twitter. "You are on national television. You have a responsibility to educate yourself on social issues @megynkelly. This is so damaging."

Kelly's transition from Fox News to her own 9 a.m. hour as part of the "Today" show has been anything but smooth, and Tuesday's incident doesn't help.

She had an edge from the beginning of the offending segment, where she discussed Halloween costumes with a panel that included Jenna Bush Hager, Melissa Rivers and Jacob Soboroff.

"The costume police are cracking down like never before," she said, ridiculing a college that suggested wearing a cowboy outfit was inadvisable. She noted that one safe suggestion was to go dressed as a letter of the alphabet, and that she had discussed that with her husband.

"I'm going to go as 'F' and he's going to go as 'U,'" she said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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