So Megyn Kelly is getting fired by NBC for questioning whether a blackface Halloween costume is necessarily racist, but Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon can actually perform in blackface and apparently no one cares.
The background, in case you don’t already know (lucky you), is that on Tuesday, Kelly made some pretty benign comments about blackface during a segment on the “costume police,” who now appear every Halloween to terrify and shame anyone who dresses in a costume someone deems offensive.
Responding to comment from one her panelists about racist costumes, Kelly said, “What is racist? 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 on Halloween. When I was a kid that was okay as long as you were dressing up like a character.”
She went on to note the controversy that apparently erupted last year when a white woman on “Real Housewives of New York” dressed as Diana Ross, including putting on bronzer to deepen her skin color. “People said that was racist and, I don’t know I felt like… who doesn’t love Diana Ross? She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day,” said Kelly. “I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween.”
For that, NBC has reportedly fired Kelly, who gave a tearful apology on Thursday to no avail. Some have said the network is using this as a pretext to get rid of Kelly’s unpopular show, despite also agreeing to pay out her $69 million contract.
Set all that aside for a minute and consider the staggering hypocrisy on display here. At the 2016 Golden Globes, Jimmy Fallon, who also has a show on NBC, did an impersonation of Chris Rock that didn’t go over very well, especially among the black actors and entertainers in the room.
It reminded the Internet of when Fallon donned blackface for the exact same Chris Rock impersonation in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch in 2000, and Vic Berger did a mashup for Super Deluxe for the benefit of future generations:
Or consider Jimmy Kimmel, who is fond of using his platform at ABC to lecture the American people on morality and politics. Back when Kimmel was doing “The Man Show,” he thought it would be funny to dress up in blackface and impersonate Karl Malone:
It’s kind of funny. So is Fallon’s Chris Rock impersonation. Donning blackface as part of playing a character or doing an impersonation is much different than doing it to mock or denigrate a race, which Kimmel and Fallon were obviously not doing.
But what they did is arguably much closer to the line than what Kelly said. And among those who easily take offense at this sort of thing, there’s no question that Kimmel and Fallon’s actual blackface performances are “worse” than Kelly’s mundane observations about Halloween costumes.
What should we conclude from the double standard on display here? Maybe that NBC is using Kelly’s gaffe as an excuse to cancel her unpopular show. But since there will be no calls to cancel Fallon’s and Kimmel’s shows, we can also conclude that the networks and many of the people who claim to be offended by this sort of thing aren’t serious, and aren’t really offended, and the next time they start howling about Halloween costumes, they should be ignored.