Soon after her show wrapped, Kelly reportedly emailed her NBC colleagues to apologize for her comments, which had earned her swift and sharp criticism on social media. She said that friends had reached out to help her understand why blackface offends people.
“One of the wonderful things about my job is that I get the chance to express and hear a lot of opinions,” the TV host said in an internal email addressed to “friends & teammates,” which HuffPost obtained.
“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,” she continued.
Kelly acknowledged she had suggested that attempting to change one’s racial appearance “seemed okay if done as part of this holiday where people have the chance to make themselves look like others.”
“I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry,” she said. “The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
With Halloween a week away, Kelly had used an English university’s ban on certain costumes ― including Mexicans and ISIS fighters ― to launch a conversation about off-limits attire in a roundtable discussion on her show. Very few costume ideas seemed to cross a line with the “Today” host, who noted that “you get in trouble” for being a white person who puts on blackface, or vice versa, but also said she recalled a time when it was not offensive to do so.
“When I was a kid, that was OK, so long as you were dressing up as a character,” she told her panel, which did not include any person of color.
“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi was one of many who slammed Kelly’s “ignorance.”
Later in the segment, Kelly defended “Real Housewives of New York” cast member Luann de Lesseps for once appearing to darken her skin for a Diana Ross costume. De Lesseps apologized for the costume, saying she hadn’t tried to darken her skin with anything but her usual bronzer. Kelly did not see a problem.
“I can’t keep up with the number of people we’re offending just by being normal people,” she told the audience.
In her email to colleagues, Kelly explained that she’s “never been a ‘pc’ kind of person” but understands 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,” she wrote. “This is a time for more understanding, love, sensitivity and honor, and I want to be a part of that.”