“The fact is while she apologized to the staff, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country,” Roker said on the show, a day after Kelly apologized in a memo to NBC colleagues for wondering why blackface in Halloween costumes was considered racist.
Soon after Roker’s comments, Kelly did apologize on air, then convened a discussion about the history of blackface that included black panelists.
“I was wrong,” she told viewers.
The controversy erupted a day earlier, during a segment featuring a discussion with a panel entirely of white people, when Kelly said, “When I was a kid, that was OK, so long as you were dressing up as a character.”
In her memo to NBC staff, Kelly ― who has a history of racist comments ― affirmed that “such behavior is indeed wrong” and that “the history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep.”
Roker on Wednesday noted that offensive pop culture portrayals of black people date back to 19th-century minstrel shows.
“I’m old enough to have lived through ‘Amos ‘n’ Andy,’” Roker said, referring to the old sitcom originally voiced by white actors “just magnifying the worst stereotypes about black people. And that’s what the big problem is.”
“Today” co-host Craig Melvin pilloried people claiming that criticisms of blackface are simply “political correctness run amok.”
“That’s silly, and it’s disingenuous, and it’s just as ignorant and racist as the statement itself,” he said.
In her memo Tuesday, Kelly wrote that “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.”
While the “Today” hosts agreed that the condemnation of Kelly’s segment provided an opportunity to learn about blackface, “I think a lot of people knew about blackface before yesterday,” Melvin said.
“You know. You know. You know,” Roker said, agreeing with Melvin.
“No good comes from it,” Roker continued, adding that there is also a long history of white actors in “yellowface” playing Asian characters.
“It’s just not right.”