Jimmy Fallon apologizes for wearing blackface in resurfaced SNL sketch

Guardian staff
Photograph: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Late-night TV host and comedian Jimmy Fallon has apologized for appearing in blackface during a Saturday Night Live sketch two decades ago after a clip went viral on social media and triggered a storm of protest.

In the sketch, broadcast in 2000, Fallon, who now hosts The Tonight Show, was impersonating the black comedian Chris Rock and wearing heavy makeup.

Fallon said in a statement on Twitter: “In 2000, while on SNL, I made a terrible decision to do an impersonation of Chris Rock while in blackface. There is no excuse for this. I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”

The clip, which has periodically resurfaced before, was posted by a Twitter user on Monday night and quickly went viral, seeing the hashtag #JimmyFallonisoverparty start to trend.

Fallon is far from the first entertainment star or public figure to apologize for wearing blackface. Comic Sarah Silverman said she was fired from a movie after a photo appeared of her wearing blackface during a 2007 episode of The Sarah Silverman Show. Last year several senior figures in Virginia politics were exposed as having worn blackface. News broadcaster Megyn Kelly in 2018 lost her NBC job after she defended wearing blackface as part of a Halloween costume.

Virginia’s governor, Ralph Northam, defied calls to step down last year after a picture resurfaced from his medical school yearbook page that showed a person in blackface standing next to a person in a Ku Klux Klan costume. Northam did not specify which of the pair he was, though he apologized, then later claimed he was not in the photograph, a point that was not subsequently fully clarified.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, also sparked uproar last year and was obliged to apologize during his re-election campaign after old pictures of him in blackface at a party surfaced.