Several clips that showed Kimmel impersonating the former NBA star re-surfaced online recently at a time when celebrities, everyday people and companies are being called out for being racially insensitive or flat out racist.
Kimmel impersonated Malone on Comedy Central’s “The Man Show,” which he co-hosted with Adam Carolla from 1999 to 2003.
“I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us,” said Kimmel in a statement issued Tuesday, June 23.
“That delay was a mistake,” he continued. “There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.”
Kimmel explained that the Malone impression started as a radio bit and not once did he think it was racist.
“On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone,” the late-night host explained. “I continued impersonating Malone on TV. We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible. I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl’s skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head.”
Kimmel has been a constant critic of President Donald Trump on his show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and often jokes about things Trump says or tweets.
In 2018 Kimmel encouraged actor Tom Arnold to release an alleged tape of Trump saying the N-word. So the veteran host has been a target for Trump’s followers to badger online, which is why he waited to apologize.
“I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last twenty-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show,” Kimmel explained.
Kimmel also impersonated Snoop Dogg on a 1996 Christmas Comedy album called “A Family Christmas In Your A-s,” where he used the N-Word.
Kimmel’s apology comes nearly a month after late-night host Jimmy Fallon apologized for appearing in blackface while impersonating Chris Rock in 2000 on “Saturday Night Live.” Footage of the impression was recently unearthed like Kimmel’s sketches.
“In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface,” tweeted Fallon last month. “There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”