Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel issued an apology Tuesday for his “embarrassing” portrayals of Black celebrities.
In his statement, obtained by CNN, Kimmel wrote “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.”
“That delay was a mistake,” Kimmel wrote. “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.”
The Emmys host had come under fire recently after social media unearthed clips of him performing in blackface.
Kimmel explained in his statement that “On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone.”
“In the late 90s, I continued impersonating Malone on TV. We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible,” Kimmel further explained. “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,” Kimmel went on to say. “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.”
Kimmel wrote that he has since “evolved and matured” in the 20-plus years since, and he added, “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,” he wrote. “I won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas.”
He also made mention of his recently announced summer vacation, which he said had been planned for more than a year, and noted that he will return to his late-night show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in September.
Kimmel ended his statement with gratitude.
“Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I’ve disappointed, I am sorry,” he wrote.