Jimmy Fallon began Monday’s broadcast of “The Tonight Show” with an apology for wearing blackface in an old “Saturday Night Live” skit from 2000 that went viral again on social media last week.
Fallon, returning to the air after a week off for Memorial Day, followed up his initial apology on Twitter, explaining that he was first advised to “stay quiet” over his impersonation of comedian Chris Rock over fears it would spark further anger.
Initially, he followed the advice. But, on reflection, Fallon said he decided he had to talk on the issue. “So, I thought about it and I realized that I can’t not say I’m horrified. And I’m sorry. And I’m embarrassed,” he explained.
Continued Fallon: “And what that small gesture did for me was break my own silence. And what then I started to do was talk to some experts, some of which are here tonight, and this week, and I realized that the silence is the biggest crime that white guys like me and the rest of us are doing, staying silent. We need to say something. We need to keep saying something. … I realized I needed to get educated about how to stop the silence and the fear of saying the wrong thing.”
Fallon, who’d earlier promised “a different kind of show” in light of the blackface controversy and the protests that have erupted nationwide following the death of George Floyd, later interviewed Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, CNN’s Don Lemon and anti-racism activist Jane Elliott.
Lemon applauded Fallon’s honesty and for having “the depth” to acknowledge his mistake. “I wish more people would do that because we can’t go back to the way we were,” he said.
Check out Fallon’s comments in the video above and the interviews below:
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