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Megyn Kelly apologizes for defending wearing blackface for Halloween

Megyn Kelly on Oct. 2 in Laguna

 Megyn Kelly on Oct. 2 in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Credit: Getty Images / Phillip Faraone

Following a social-media backlash Tuesday, Megyn Kelly has apologized for her comments on "Megyn Kelly Today" defending the concept of dressing in blackface for Halloween.

"Today is one of those days where listening carefully to other points of view, including from friends and colleagues, is leading me to rethink my own views," Kelly, 47, told colleagues in an internal email provided to Newsday by NBC News.

"When we had the roundtable discussion earlier today about the controversy of making your face look like a different race as part of a Halloween costume, I suggested that this seemed okay if done as part of this holiday . . . ," Kelly wrote. "I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry. The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds [are] too deep." 

She added that "race and ethnicity issues . . . have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year. This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity and honor, and I want to be part of that."

In the segment, which hinged on one British university's Halloween-costume recommendations, Kelly took aim at "the costume police," and in reference to blackface asked, "But what is racist? Because truly 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. Like, back when I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character."  Kelly's panelists were NBC News correspondents Jenna Bush Hager and Jacob Soboroff.

Reaction to her stance was quick and largely negative. "Dear @megynkelly — you and I are approximately the same age. Blackface was NOT okay when we were kids," tweeted comedian-actor Patton Oswalt, 49. "Take it from a big-hearted boy who just wanted to show his love for [African-American comedian] Nipsey Russell on the worst Halloween of my life."

Author and "Top Chef" host and executive producer Padma Lakshmi, 48, tweeted, "I cannot believe the ignorance on this in 2018. You are on national television. You have a responsibility to educate yourself on social issues @megynkelly. This is so damaging."

Lakshmi said "minstrelsy is the basis for the coining of the term 'Jim Crow' laws which served to humiliate & target Black Americans.” According to historians, the blackface character Jim Crow had been created by the highly popular 19th-century white minstrel performer Thomas Dartmouth Rice, and the term became shorthand for discriminatory laws against African-Americans. Lakshmi went on to say that "caricaturing another race perpetuates the dehumanization of POC [people of color]  who are being killed & jailed at a disproportionate rate in the US."

Kelly, Bush Hager and Rivers did not comment on social media. Soboroff tweeted an official clip from Kelly's show that did not include the blackface comments. At least two Twitter users took Soboroff to task for not directly discussing Kelly's comments, with one tweeting: Hey @jacobsoboroff get a panel of black people and ask them why its [sic] racist!"

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