Megyn Kelly defended blackface during a discussion on Halloween costumes on her NBC morning show Tuesday.
“But what is racist?” Kelly asked her all-white panel. “Because 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.”
“Back when I was a kid that was ok, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character,” she said.
Later in the discussion, Kelly defended a Diana Ross costume from The Real Housewives of New York star Luann de Lesseps that drew backlash last year.
“She dressed as Diana Ross and she made her skin look darker than it really is. And people said that was racist, and I don’t know. 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 host said.
“I have not seen it, but it sounds a little racist to me,” news correspondent Jacob Soboroff responded.
“I can’t keep up with the number of people we’re offending just by being normal people,” Kelly said at the end of the discussion.
De Lesseps eventually apologized for her the Diana Ross Halloween costume. “I’m very sorry to everyone out there if I offended anyone,” she said.
The star also insisted that she didn’t alter the color of her skin for the costume. “I didn’t. I had bronzer on that I wear normally, like the rest of my skin. I’m tan, like right now. So I didn’t add anything to, or try do ever, ever, ever dream of doing a blackface, ever,” she said.
In response to Kelly’s comments Tuesday, many people wondered why the topic of blackface was discussed by an all-white panel.
“And yet again we have white people discussing why blackface is offensive with no black people on panel to explain why white people JUST SHOULDN’T DO IT!” one person said.
Another person mocked the panel’s diversity using a still from BoJack Horseman.
Comedian Kathy Griffin also mocked Kelly.
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi weighed in too, calling Kelly ignorant.
“You make it so difficult to respect you as an informed journalist,” another person said.
Kelly apologized for the comments to her colleagues in an email Tuesday. NBC provided the email to BuzzFeed News:
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.