Rating Jimmy Kimmel’s Terrible Blackface Apology

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.

10 thoughts on “Rating Jimmy Kimmel’s Terrible Blackface Apology

  1. 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.

    I wasn’t on board until this part. I like an essay that wins me over right at the end.

  2. I hope this represents the end of this smug creep who thought he was the pope of America. I think the left has no choice but to push him out the door, or they’re just illustrating once more, for the umpteenth time, that if it weren’t for double standards, they’d have no standards at all.

    Putting it bluntly, Jimmy, you are a PIG. You’ve always been a pig, and you will always be a pig. You are no different than the bullies who tortured others because they got some perverse pleasure out of it, and then expected the victims to just laugh, because, after all, you were only playing a harmless prank. At first I thought no one ever stood up to you after one poke too many and just let you have it, to jolt you into rethinking acting like a horse’s ass 24/7, so you just kept reaching and reaching until you reached too far.

    That’s not the case, though. You’ve been fired twice inside of 2 years from radio jobs and made jokes on television about burning down Detroit and whether the Chinese should be allowed to live, both of which very nearly got you tossed off the air. You also know damn well that blackface was considered offensive probably a good decade before you started using it.

    You’re a father of four children, including a three-year-old son with a serious heart condition, who you shamelessly used as a prop in your attacks on the current admission’s policies. even filming him waving goodbye to one of the president’s proposals that came up short. He’s your youngest. This isn’t your first go with parenting. You know or should know damn well that it’s wrong to encourage parents to play cruel practical jokes on their kids, yet you did it. You know or should know damn well that it’s wrong, cruel, and creepy to broadcast a child’s reaction to a cruel practical joke to the world. Yet you did it and you encouraged others to laugh at this cruelty.

    You also have two long-term relationships that failed in your past, including one with Sarah Silverman, one of the most mentally damaged women in Hollywood. Then again, both of you seem to delight in transgressing standards you know will upset ordinary people, so maybe that wasn’t such a bad match. Oddly against all this, you claim to be a practicing Catholic and some kind of moral conscience for this whole country. I’m a practicing Catholic too, and I can say with complete certitude that you are not any kind of an example of any Catholic values. You probably wouldn’t know chrism from Christology or Lent from Advent. To you, Catholicism is just spiritualized leftism.

    You’re incorrigible, putting it bluntly. You are someone who can’t hold to the most basic of standards and can’t, or more likely won’t, learn from mistakes or bad experiences. You’re a narcissist who’s very good at criticizing others, but can’t admit to doing anything wrong yourself. What’s more, you want to blame the fact that you are now being called out on some things you should have known were truly unacceptable when you did them on others opposed to you politically wanting to silence your incredibly important progressive voice. You’re not that important in the grand scheme of things. Not only is this country not going to stand or fall on your pontifications, it’s not going to move even a little.

    I wrote once that too much success for too long is probably a good part of what got certain historical figures, even nations, into situations that turned out very badly for them. In the interest of keeping what’s already becoming a long post from becoming even longer I won’t get into specific examples. In your case it’s too much success and too many breaks you probably should not have gotten that have put you here. Yet, even when all of this is staring you in the face, you refuse to see it. What you need, to make you check yourself before you wreck yourself, is to actually slam into a wall and experience some consequences that can’t be comfortably ignored. I hope that’s what happens here, and, at the relatively late age of 53, you can learn the things you should have learned long ago. However, I frown on that hope, and, honestly, if you were forced into early retirement like Al Franken, I wouldn’t lose one wink of sleep, because you’d finally be getting what you deserved, before the God we both claim to believe in sends you to the very hot destination I believe is waiting for you on the other side.

  3. 30 Rock, the Tina Fey-Alec Baldwin vehicle has apparently pulled four episodes from syndication because of the use of blackface. Four, from a show about ten years old. It’s odd – this is supposed to be a primitive practice, but I remember hardly any of this among my old favorite shows. The Honeymooners didn’t do it; Dick van Dyke didn’t (though they dyed their hands); Green Acres didn’t do it; I don’t think the Hillbillies did; Bob Newhart, the Odd Couple, Barney Miller didn’t do it; Seinfeld, the least woke recent sitcom, gave Kramer an excessively deep tan. All in the Family did blackface to criticize it in 1975, but it seems like the message received was that it was the hip thing to do.

    • I checked YouTube and the web just to be sure, but not even HEE HAW, a bunch of rednecks singing in corn patches in the Reagan years, ever used blackface.

      There’s an interesting story to be told here. After the sexual and cultural transformation of the late 60’s (which seems to be the exact point at which it was all downhill for America) there was a rising tide of “edgy” entertainment that “pushed the envelope.” Once it became desirable to offend the preceding generation, it was a race to the bottom. The bottom was probably reached in the late 1990s or early 2000s, the Jerry Springer era, when TV was just overflowing with irredeemable trash.

      Ergo, the rise of a more “liberal” society led directly to an explosion of blackface on television. Fascinating.

      I’m not sure whether we aren’t still at the bottom (by all objective measures, the downward trend in general knowledge, social skills, and empathy isn’t getting better) but what I think we ARE getting better at is dressing up that sociopathy as niceness. Jimmy Kimmel is not a nice guy, but he plays one on TV and he takes perverse pleasure in grinding all sorts of people he disagrees with into the dirt, vilifying them to his cheering audience and stomping on them from his newly claimed moral high ground. Many of these people are probably considerably better overall human beings than him.

      I wonder where this will lead? Perhaps rainbow clad college kids, who can’t stop talking about how nice they are and how everyone else is scum, will start patrolling the streets, punching out random grandpas for carrying American flags. Oh, wait, that’s actually happening. Well, I guess we’re screwed then. At least we got rid of the blackface.

    • In 30 Rock’s defense, in at least one instance of blackface, the joke was on how offensive it is (they even had one of the saner black characters call it out, as a meta thing) and how narcisstically clueless the character wearing it was. It was an extreme cringe type situation and definitely not showing blackface as funny or entertaining in itself.

      Not to say the show has always aged well even in the past 10 years, and I don’t recall the other instances, but this was an instance of criticism too!

      • But it’s criticizing after the point was made 30 years before. The Big Bang Theory addressed it by saying, “In honor of Black History Month …I was informed by my roommate that my spot-on portrayal of George Washington Carver could be considered ‘wildly racist.'” So to discuss it, you don’t have to actually do it, but people keep doing it.

        • Exactly, and in this case, the show assumed all viewers knew blackface was wildly offensive. It wasn’t PSA: Blackface is Offensive, it was “watch this plotline slowly build to a character doing this wildly offensive, while other characters slowly realize what’s coming and have to scramble to stop it.”

          Of course, I can’t speak more to the choice for that wildly offensive thing to be blackface. Unless it was about giving Jane Krakowski an excuse to sing The Wiz.

  4. I’ve always been gobsmacked by the idea that Kimmel was some kind of moral compass for the left. I mean…. Has no one heard of Google? This is Jimmy Kimmel, who beside Adam Corolla, hosted The Man Show for six years ending in 2004, which routinely objectified women and had such high-brow content as a man jacking a turkey off into a cup. That, when he wasn’t humping women on camera, making fun of their weight or getting his paid harem of hot stage hands (which he called the Juggy Dancers) to do his bidding. There were regular features of bikini clad girls jumping on trampolines, and dancing midgets, which were referred to as the dancing midgets.

    The first episode was shot on top of the Hoover Dam, where after talking about the Dam workers, who were exclusively male, Jimmy said:

    “just as these heroic men did 60 years ago, we are building a dam: a dam to hold back the title wave of feminization that is taking over this country; a dam to stop the estrogen that is drowning us in political correctness. A dam to urinate off of when we’re really drunk. We call this dam: The Man Show.”

    There was another bit where Kimmel went out attempting to collect petition signatures from women, to end women’s sufferage, because “suffrage” sounded like “suffering”.

    A few choice quotes from IMDB:

    Adam Carolla:
    Oprah tells women what to read, what to eat, what to think, what to do…
    Jimmy Kimmel:
    We’re the ones that are supposed to be telling them what to do, right? Enough is enough, the Oprahization of America needs to be stopped!
    Adam Carolla:
    Yes, Oprah needs to do a little less brainwashing, and a little more sock washing!

    [after the Magical Negro has sung an extended song about penises; Doug interrupts him before he gets too far]
    Doug Stanhope:
    Alright, alright, I get it. Jeez, you sure know a lot about penises.
    The Magical Negro:
    [happily] Well I should; I have three!

    Jimmy Kimmel: Homo-bile?
    The Bishop Don Magic Juan: Nah, man, Ho-mobile.

    Teenage me was amused, but I doubt very much that this is the guy I’d take life advice from.

    But it’s the *blackface* that did him in. Of course it is.

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