Both meteorologist and host Al Roker and news anchor Craig Melvin sharply rebuked Kelly’s comments on Tuesday, when she asked why white people dressing up in blackface was inappropriate. Kelly has since sent an internal memo apologizing for the comments, but the TODAY show figures said that apology fell short of what was required.
“The fact is, while she apologized to the staff, she owes a bigger apology to folks of color around the country,” said Roker. “This is a history going back to the 1830s—minstrel shows to demean and denigrate a race wasn’t right. I’m old enough to know have lived through Amos ‘n’ Andy, where you had white people in blackface playing two black characters, just magnifying the worst stereotypes about black people—and that’s what the problem is. That’s what the issue is.”
Melvin took things even further.
“There was some criticism yesterday online that this was political correctness run amok. That’s silly and it’s disingenuous and it’s just as ignorant and racist as the statement itself,” said Melvin. “In addition to her being a colleague, she’s a friend. She said something stupid. She said something indefensible.”
Later in the show, Jenna Bush Hager, who was on the panel where Kelly made the comments, said the conversation had taken “a turn none of us expected.” While she didn’t directly address Kelly’s comments, Bush Hager, who became emotional during a segment discussing her grandmother Barbara Bush, said “Of course it’s wrong. In a world that’s sometimes filled with hate, it’s more important than ever that we use our voices toward love.”
Kelly, in her apology to the staff, said that she’d never been a “PC” person, “but I understand that we do need to be more sensitive in this day and age. Particularly on race and ethnicity issues which, far from being healed, have been exacerbated in our politics over the past year.”
Roker has a powerful voice on TODAY. It was his stance on Don Imus in 2007 that led to the shock jock being fired from MSNBC after he referred to players on the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.”
This isn’t Kelly’s first controversy since going on the air a little over a year ago. Actress Debra Messing said she regretted going on the show last September when Kelly asked an audience member if be “became gay” because of the character Will Truman on Will & Grace. And soon after that she had a disastrous sit-down with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, where she asked the actress to discuss plastic surgery.