Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon came under fire on Twitter this week after an old Saturday Night Live clip from 2000 resurfaced that featured the comedian in blackface. In the video, Fallon was impersonating fellow comic and SNL alum Chris Rock, and he now says it was a huge mistake.
After the Twitter outrage rapidly spread and had the hashtag #jimmyfallonisoverparty trending, Fallon posted an apology and admitted that that the sketch was a “terrible decision.”
— s🅰️m🐀 (@chefboyohdear) May 26, 2020
“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,” wrote Fallon. “I am very sorry for making this unquestionably offensive decision and thank all of you for holding me accountable.”
This is the first time Fallon has addressed the blackface controversy, even though the clip is 20 years old and has made its way through the internet and been debated many times before.
Other celebrities that have come under fire for wearing blackface in the past include Jimmy Kimmel, who did it to portray NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone during a 2000 sketch on The Man Show. Sarah Silverman also wore blackface in a 2007 sketch on The Sarah Silverman Program.
Robert Downey Jr. also faced criticism for wearing blackface in the 2008 movie Tropic Thunder – and he even received an Oscar nomination for the performance.
While many Twitter users were outraged this week by Fallon’s sketch and called it “racist,” many criticized the internet’s obsession with cancel culture. One fan pointed out that the Fallon clip was two decades old, and there are many other celebrities who are guilty of doing the same thing.
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.
— jimmy fallon (@jimmyfallon) May 26, 2020
“I’m African-American. Jimmy Fallon isn’t doing “blackface”; he’s doing Chris Rock,” wrote Twitter user Melanie Lee. “I think it’s time to end the idea that no White person can dress up as a Black person ever. Fallon is doing a spot-on impression of a SPECIFIC PERSON, not spoofing an entire race.”
Others pointed out NBC’s hypocrisy over firing Megyn Kelly when she merely mentioned on the now-cancelled Megyn Kelly Today that she thought blackface was okay for Halloween costumes when she was a kid.
The backlash against Kelly was quick and she was fired not long after the comment. However, Jimmy Fallon hasn’t suffered the same fate, not to mention Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels, who approved the sketch for air.