NBC host Megyn Kelly is facing intense backlash after defending blackface on the Today Show Tuesday. The former Fox News host asked her panel about what was considered offensive for a Halloween costume during a roundtable discussion, according to Raw Story. In an awkward exchange, Kelly said it was fine to dress as a black person when she was growing up, and defended reality star LuAnn de Lesseps, who was criticized for dressing as Diana Ross.
“What is racist?” Kelly asked her panel. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person that puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
LuAnn de Lesseps darkened her skin and wore a massive afro wig during Season 10 of the Real Housewives of New York. Kelly said that she didn’t understand how this would be offensive, seeing it as more of an homage to the legendary singer.
Kelly faced immediate backlash, with people on social media suggesting a boycott of the show’s sponsors, which include Dell, Crest, Liberty Mutual, and Geico.
The host quickly issued an apology, according to People, for her comments to her co-workers. In a letter addressed to her “friends and teammates,” Kelly expressed appreciation for the opportunity to hear all of the different opinions shared by her co-workers.
According to her letter, hearing other’s opinions helped to re-evaluate her own. Kelly stated that she is “sorry,” and realizes that dressing in blackface, even for a costume, “is wrong.”
“The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep,” she wrote in the letter. “I’ve never been a ‘pc’ kind of 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.”
People on Twitter condemned Kelly’s comments, saying that there is no excuse for her opinion. Comedian, actor, and author Patton Oswalt commented that he and Kelly are about the same age, and blackface wasn’t even acceptable when he was a kid.
Dear @megynkelly — you and I are approximately the same age. Blackface was NOT okay when we were kids. Take it from a big-hearted boy who just wanted to show his love for Nipsey Russell on the worst Halloween of my life. https://t.co/pnsk0WmuTw— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) October 23, 2018
During Megyn Kelly’s segment on the Today Show, called Megyn Kelly Today, a panel of people, none of whom was a person of color, pushed back on Kelly’s comments. Author and television host Melissa Rivers admonished Kelly, saying that if you suspect something is racist, it probably is.
MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff also rejected Kelly’s rationalization, noting that de Lesseps’ costume sounded “a little racist.”