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In an internal email, Kelly wrote that she’s heard from colleagues and friends and realizes her comments were wrong, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
“What is racist?” she asked her panelists during a segment about controversial Halloween costumes. “Because truly you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface at Halloween or a black person who 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.”
In her memo sent later on Tuesday, she wrote: “One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions. 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.”
During the show, Kelly also defended Real Housewives of New York star Luann de Lessep’s Diana Ross costume from last Halloween. “Who doesn’t love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day, and I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween,” Kelly said.
The comments sparked immediate backlash online, with stars such as Padma Lakshmi, Roy Wood Jr. and Patton Oswalt calling out the NBC host.
The NBC host recounted the segment in her email, in which she “suggested that this seemed okay if done as part of this holiday where people have the chance to make themselves look like others.” She continued: “I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry. The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
Kelly concluded her email to colleagues speaking about “sensitivity” over issues of race: “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. This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity and honor, and I want to be part of that. I look forward to continuing that discussion.”
This isn’t the first time Kelly has gotten in hot water for such comments. In 2013, she sparked controversy when she said on Fox News, “For you kids watching at home: Santa just is white.”
Kelly later added: “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.” The comments came during a segment discussing an article arguing that Santa Claus shouldn’t always be depicted as white.
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