Jimmy Kimmel sorry for 'thoughtless, embarrassing' blackface sketches

Jimmy Kimmel has issued an apology for impersonating a range of black celebrities in the late '90s and early 2000s, calling the sketches "embarrassing". 

The TV host came under fire for wearing blackface to imitate Oprah Winfrey and NBA star Karl Malone on his Comedy Central series The Man Show, as well as using the N-word in a parody song where he impersonated Snoop Dogg. 

In his statement, Kimmel said he had "long been reluctant to address" the situation - a fact that didn't go unnoticed by many who were outraged when Kimmel announced his summer vacation last week without mentioning the controversy. 

"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," he said. 

"There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologise to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke." 

Kimmel explained that he began impersonating Malone in the mid-'90s on his radio show, and went on to continue the bit on television. 

"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 colour than it did his bulging muscles and bald head." 

Kimmel went on to list various other celebrities he had impersonated, including Oprah, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Rosie O'Donnell.  

"In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more," he wrote. 

"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 was dubbed a "hypocritical hack" and other things by social media users who attacked him for being "woke" and speaking out about issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, having performed in blackface in the past. 

"I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last 20-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show," Kimmel said. 

"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." 

Addressing his hiatus from hosting the Jimmy Kimmel Live show, the father of four insisted the timing of the announcement was coincidental. 

"My summer vacation has been planned for more than a year and includes the next two summers off as well. I will be back to work in September.

"Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain and to those I've disappointed, I am sorry," he concluded.