UPDATED with video: “I want to begin with two words: ‘I’m sorry’,” NBC News morning show host Megyn Kelly said at the top of her show the morning after she got torched for defending blackface for Halloween on her hour of Today.
“Yesterday we had a discussion here about political correctness and Halloween costumes. And that conversation turned to whether it is ever okay for a person of one race to dress up as another – a black person making their race lighter or a white person making theirs darker, to make a costume complete.”
As Kelly described what happened, she defended the idea saying “as long as it was respectful, and part of a Halloween costume, it seemed okay.”
“Well I was wrong and I am sorry.”
“Yesterday I learned,” she said of the backlash.
“I learned that, given the history of blackface being used in awful ways by racists in this country it is not okay for this to be part of any costume, Halloween or otherwise,” said Kelly, a former lawyer and Fox News primetime star, who is in her 40s.
Once again Kelly insisted she has “never been a pc kind of person.”
“But I do understand the value in being sensitive to our history, particularly on race and ethnicity. 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 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,” she said, for which her studio audience rewarded her with a standing ovation, returning that favor by telling the crowd “I love you guys so much for that.”
Then introduced her panel, Roland Martin and PBS’s In Principle host Amy Holmes, who were there to explain to her the history of blackface and discrimination.
“I can play Dianna Ross, I’m sorry Megyn, you can’t,” Holmes explained at one point.
Before Megyn Kelly’s hour of Today, franchise instiution Al Roker scolded that Kelly “apologized to the staff, but she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country.”
Roker joined an ethnically diverse panel that included Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Craig Melvin and Morgan Radford, to talk about Kelly’s previous day segment in which Kelly had complained “This year the content police are cracking down like never before” on Halloween.
“It is uncomfortable, obviously, because Megyn is a colleague at NBC News,” Guthrie told viewers of this morning’s Today show conversation.
Melvin called Kelly’s remarks “ignorant and racist,” saying those on social who criticized the uproar over her blackface defense as “political correctness run amok,” were “silly,….disingenuous” and “just as ignorant and racist as the statement itself.”
“She said something stupid, she said something something indefensible,” Melvin blasted, reminding that “Jim Crow” is shorthand for racist laws that existed for much of the last century, and that the term comes from a minstrel show of the 1830’s.
But, he added pointedly, “I think a lot of people knew about blackface before yesterday.”
Radford kicked things off with a report detailing Kelly’s previous day debacle, and the email apology she sent her staff, which NBC News made a point of sending wide to reporters who cover TV.
It was NBC News’ second bite of the Kelly controversy, NBC Nightly News having also reported about the network’s on-air incident.
During her segment with an all-white panel, Kelly had complained, “isn’t the whole purpose on Halloween to dress up and pretend you are something other than yourself?”, wondered “what is racist” about donning blackface for a Halloween costume, which, she insisted was “okay” when she was growing up.
This morning, like last night, those reports included Kelly’s previous controversial race remarks, when she was a primetime star on Fox News Channel, in which she wanted kids watching at home to know “Santa just is white” and that “Jesus was a white man too.”