It should surprise no one that ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel’s apology, issued in a statement released today, is wretched, because Kimmel himself lacks character or an ethical compass. Ethics Alarms has pointed this out before.
I will not hold you in unnecessary suspense: his apology is an unequivocal Level 10 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale. If I ever get around to adding real apology examples to each of the ten levels, his would be a perfect one to place under this description:
10. An insincere and dishonest apology designed to allow the wrongdoer to escape accountability cheaply, and to deceive his or her victims into forgiveness and trust, so they are vulnerable to future wrongdoing.
Considerately, Kimmel places his apology in the bottom of the barrel in his very first paragraph:
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. That delay was a mistake. 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.
Somebody explain to Jimmy, if he or she can stand being in the same space with such a creep, that you can’t be defiant in an apology. It’s one or the other. He makes it clear, by putting an admission of the error of not apologizing sooner before what he is allegedly apologizing for, that this statement is strategic, as #10 apologies always are. He’s “apologizing,” not because he is genuinely remorseful, but because he wants to be respected. Hilariously, but characteristically, Kimmel doesn’t even know what human beings respect.
Finally, if there was any doubt what this is, he adds the watermark of a fake apology: “I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.” That takes him to at least Level #9 right off the bat:
9. Deceitful apologies, in which the wording of the apology is crafted to appear apologetic when it is not (“if my words offended, I am sorry”). Another variation: apologizing for a tangential matter other than the act or words that warranted an apology.
And he’s just getting started:
On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone. In the late 90s, 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. I’ve done dozens of impressions of famous people, including Snoop Dogg, Oprah, Eminem, Dick Vitale, Rosie, and many others. In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more. Looking back, many of these sketches are embarrassing, and it is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices.
Kimmel still thinks he’s innocent, and plays victim in an apology! He’s barely trying to apologize. He never says his blackface routines were wrong, just that some of them were embarrassing—you know, like any joke that misfires. Then he accuses critics of using his insensitivity in these impressions, and he never even admits that, to attack him for his brave, noble, virtuous criticisms of social and other injustices.
Jimmy’s trying a Cognitive Dissonance Scale trick, just like Harvey Weinstein did when he apologized, sucking up to Hollywood by vowing to devote himself to going after the NRA. (Note: Harvey’s apology was bad, but it was much better than Jimmy’s.) Here’s that scale again:
Blackface is under water on the scale, pulling Kimmel down. So he uses his self-declared advocacy for justice, a strong positive if you’re gullible enough to believe him, to counterbalance the blackface and pull him back into positive territory. Attempting this is a tell. An apology is supposed to communicate regret, remorse and contrition, not serve as brief arguing that the one apologizing is still a great guy, and that those criticizing him have sinister motives
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. I know that this will not be the last I hear of this and that it will be used again to try to quiet me. I love this country too much to allow that. I won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas.
He still isn’t saying he’s sorry. He’s arguing here that the blackface was a youthful indescretion, except that Kimmel wasn’t a teenager like, say, Brett Kavanaugh, when he engaged in it. (Jimmy gave no quarter to Kavanaugh, of course). Kimmel did his blackface in the 90’s, but he also did more blackface that anyone currently being fingered by the Cancel Mob. Bill Crystal, in contrast, had one silly bit on Saturday Night Live where he played Muhammad Ali in a parody of the sitcom “Kate and Allie” with Martin Short doing his Katherine Hepburn imitation. Crystal may have repeated it; it doesn’t matter. Kimmel loved blackface. There’s no evidence he’s “matured.” He still thinks it’s hilarious to encourage parents to play cruel practical jokes on their own children and then show videos of the children crying or being horrified for his audience’s enjoyment. He’s always been a smug jerk; lately he’s been playing a somewhat more restrained smug jerk.
The rest of this section is more playing the victim—I know my enemies will use this against me! (Jimmy sounds like Nixon), followed by another visit to the Cognitive Dissonance Scale (I love this country!) followed by more grandstanding and self-glorification while vilifying his critics. If you criticize Jimmy’s blackface routines, you’re either trying to bully and “silence him” because you’re a racist, or supporting the agenda of those who are.
After denying that his hiatus from the show is related to the blackface controversy, Kimmel concludes.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I’ve disappointed, I am sorry.
Back to the fake apology. He’s not apologizing for the blackface. He’s sorry anyone was offended by it.
You see, Jimmy, you had three ways to win my respect., but this miserable excuse for an apology wasn’t one of them.
You could have said that you were genuinely sorry that you used blackface in comedy routines, because it evoked the cruel denigration of African-Americans during Jim Crow that was part of a n oppressive system reinforcing the concept within American culture that blacks were inferior and fair objects of ridicule and scorn. You could have said that there was abundant history about this which you chose to ignore in your tunnel-vision to amuse your largely white, and based on your previous platforms like “The Man Show,” crude audience. You could have said that you were remorseful and that going forward promised to make certain your comedy strengthened society rather than divided it.
You could have also, in the course of your apology, promised to apply the Golden Rule when conveniently attacking those whom you opposed politically for past misconduct, applying the principle of forgiveness that you hoped everyone would now apply to you.
I also would have respected you if you refused to apologize, and stood by those routines as being, not blackface, but the use of appropriate make-up to lampoon the rich and famous. People of all races should be equally fair game for satire, you could have said, and that all comics should be equally entitled to mock individuals of any race or creed regardless of what their own may be Any performer should be free to use makeup to portray any character. You could have said that there should be no taboos in a free country, and that what you had done, and what others being “cancelled” in the current period of fear and retribution had done, was not disrespectful of black Americans, and certainly not “racist.” You could have said you and others were treating blacks as equals who are sophisticated enough to know the difference between a minstrel show and a good-natured spoof. That would have been courageous.
And I would have respected you if you flapped your arms real hard and proved you could fly to the moon, which is exactly as plausible you taking either of the previous two options.