On Megyn Kelly Today, the show featured a panel discussion on “inappropriate and offensive” Halloween costumes Tuesday. Kelly was joined by Melissa Rivers and NBC News reporters Jacob Soboroff and Jenna Bush Hager. However, Kelly was confused by this notion and why blackface was deemed offensive.
“But what is racist?” she asked, “Because you get in trouble if you’re a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on white face for Halloween…Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing like a character.”
She then brought up noted moral authorities, the Real Housewives, “There was a controversy on The Real Housewives of New York with Luann, as she dressed as Diana Ross and she made her skin look darker than it really is. People said that was racist! And I don’t know, like, I thought, like, ‘Who doesn’t love Diana Ross?’ She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween.”
The panel (which included no people of color) rejected with Kelly’s views and a video of her comments quickly went viral on Twitter. There was also confusion over Kelly’s comment that blackface and whiteface were considered appropriate during her childhood.
Kelly later sent out the following email to her colleagues:
Dear friends & teammates-
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.
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 where people have the chance to make themselves look like others. The iconic Diana Ross came up as an example. To me, I thought, why would it be controversial for someone dressing up as Diana Ross to make herself look like this amazing woman as a way of honoring and respecting her?
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.
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.
I’m honored to work with all of you every day.
The story was then covered by NBC Nightly News later that day. Anchor Lester Holt and correspondent Morgan Radford, who covered the story, are both black. Radford’s report included a portion of Kelly’s initial remarks, the reaction to those remarks, and then a part of her note.