October 24, 2018
After taking the first moments of her Wednesday Today hour to apologize, Kelly welcomed guests Roland Martin and Amy Holmes to the show to explain racism to her.
I want to begin with two words,” Megyn Kelly said at the top of her Today hour on Wednesday morning. “I’m sorry.”
On Tuesday, Kelly found herself in hot water after she and an all-white panel discussed whether or not dressing up in blackface for Halloween is racist. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween,” Kelly said. “Back when I was a kid, that was O.K., as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
Kelly apologized to colleagues on Tuesday in a memo; on Wednesday, she offered a similar message to her viewers on-air. At the end of her televised apology, Kelly received a standing ovation from her audience—but her response only further drove home why some critics were frustrated with her appointment in the first place.
“You may have heard that yesterday, we had a discussion here about political correctness and Halloween costumes,” Kelly told her viewers. “And that conversation turned to whether it is ever O.K. for a person of one race to dress up as another—a black person making their face lighter, or a white person making theirs darker to make a costume complete. I defended the idea, saying as long as it was respectful and part of a Halloween costume, it seemed O.K. Well, I was wrong, and I am sorry.”
Megyn Kelly Today has been a ratings dud, despite the network’s high-profile poaching of Kelly from Fox News—and this week’s controversy is another ding against the host, particularly since Today booted Al Roker and Tamron Hall from their own Today hour to accommodate Kelly. (Kelly’s salary is reportedly more than double the amount of Roker and Hall’s old combined salaries.) Even within NBC, criticism has flown freely: Late Night with Seth Meyers, NBC Nightly News, and even Kelly’s Today colleagues all took their turns criticizing her remarks. Today anchor Craig Melvin went as far as calling Kelly’s comments “indefensible” on Wednesday.
After her apology, Kelly welcomed journalists Roland Martin and Amy Holmes, both of whom are black, to the show, so that they could educate her audience—and her—on racism, blackface, and why historical context matters in discussions such as these. The discussion only reminded viewers that before Kelly, this hour was hosted by two news professionals who would not have needed such an education.
As she continued her apology Wednesday, Kelly said, “One of the great parts of sitting in this chair each day is getting to discuss different points of view. Sometimes I talk, and sometimes I listen. And yesterday I learned. I learned that given the history of blackface being used in awful ways by racists in this country, it is not O.K. for that to be part of any costume—Halloween or otherwise.”
During the original panel, none of her guests responded to Kelly’s remarks with much alarm. In her subsequent remarks about the panel, Kelly has maintained a position of ignorance, claiming that regardless of years’ worth of discussion about racism in Halloween costumes, she was not aware of the historical context that makes the practice of blackface so offensive.
“I have never been a P.C. kind of person—but I do understand the value in being sensitive to our history, particularly on race and ethnicity,” Kelly said Wednesday. “This past year has been so painful for many people of color. 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 part of that. Thank you for listening—and for helping me listen, too.”
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