By Todd Johnson
NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly issued an apology Tuesday for her comments earlier in the day questioning why it is considered racist for white people to wear blackface on Halloween.
In an email sent to colleagues released by NBC News, Kelly said she had taken the time to listen to other points of view on the topic.
“I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry,” Kelly wrote. “The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
In the roundtable segment during the 9:00 Hour on “Megyn Kelly TODAY,” which dealt with inappropriate or offensive Halloween costumes, Kelly asked her panelists “what is racist” about white people wearing blackface during Halloween. Kelly went on to say that wearing blackface was considered OK when she was a kid “as long you were dressing up as a character.”
She also defended reality TV star Luann de Lesseps, who darkened her skin for her Diana Ross costume in 2017.
“If she wants to look like Diana Ross for one day, I don’t know how that got racist for Halloween,” Kelly said. “It’s not like she’s walking around in general.”
Kelly made the comments on her show alongside guests Jenna Bush Hager, Jacob Soboroff and Melissa Rivers.
Lesseps apologized for her costume earlier this year, saying she “never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
Kelly’s remarks drew widespread criticism on social media and quickly began trending on Twitter.
In 2014, Vox.com’s Jeneé Desmond-Harris explained why blackface is offensive.
“Its American origins can be traced to minstrel shows,” Desmond-Harris wrote. “In the mid to late nineteenth century, white actors would routinely use black grease paint on their faces when depicting plantation slaves and free blacks on stage. To be clear, these weren’t flattering representations. At all. Taking place against the backdrop of a society that systematically mistreated and dehumanized black people, they were mocking portrayals that reinforced the idea that African-Americans were inferior in every way.”
Several celebrities weighed in on why they thought Kelly’s comments were problematic. Padma Lakshmi, the host of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” tweeted that Kelly had a “responsibility” to educate herself on social issues. The comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted to his followers that he and Kelly are around the same age and that blackface was “not ok” when he was younger.
Kelly concluded her email to colleagues saying she had “never been a ‘pc’ kind of person,” but understands that “race and ethnicity issues” are “far from being healed.” In fact, she said, they have been exacerbated in American politics over the past year.
“This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity and honor,” she wrote, “and I want to be part of that.”