Jimmy Fallon apologizes for blackface ‘SNL’ sketch

Jimmy Fallon returned to “The Tonight Show” on Monday, promising “a different kind of show” in light of nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota Police.

Before addressing the demonstrations in reaction to police brutality that are roiling the country, Fallon told viewers he would “start personally and expand out” because “that’s where we need to start, with ourselves and looking at ourselves in the mirror.”

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THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON — Episode 0289 — Pictured: Host Jimmy Fallon during the monologue on July 13, 2015 — (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES: Show hosts actress Kirsten Dunst (L) and her fiance Jimmy Fallon clown around with a prop at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, 02 June 2001. AFP PHOTO/Lucy Nicholson (Photo credit should read LUCY NICHOLSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Jimmy Fallon and Mary Louise Parker backstage at the MTV Rock & Comedy Concert at Battery Park in New York City, 5/10/02. The concert was staged as part of the first Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect.

Comedian Jimmy Fallon perform at the MTV Tribeca Film Festival Rock and Comedy Concert in Battery Park in New York City. May 10, 2002. Photo by Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

Jimmy Fallon jokes with and dresses identical to host Carson Daly on TRL at the MTV Studios in New York City. Jimmy will be hosting this years Video Music Awards live from Radio City Music Hall on August 29th. 8/14/02 Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect

NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 10: Actors Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph attend attends the Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 2003 Collection fashion show at the 26th Street Armory during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week February 10, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 23: (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER OUT, U.S. TABS OUT) Jimmy Fallon arrives at the BMG Post-Grammy Gala to celebrate the 45th Annual Grammy Awards at Gotham Hall February 23, 2003. (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)

HOUSTON – FEBRUARY 1: Actor Jimmy Fallon poses during the MTV TRL Super Bowl edition at Reliant Park in Houston, Texas, February 1, 2004. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

CULVER CITY, CA – JUNE 5: (U.S. TABLOIDS OUT) (L-R) Actor Jimmy Fallon and actress/singer Queen Latifah laugh backstage at the 2004 MTV Movie Awards at the Sony Pictures Studios on June 5, 2004 in Culver City, California. The 2004 MTV Movie Awards will air on the MTV Network June 10, 2004 9 PM (ET/PT). (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD – DECEMBER 8: Actor Jimmy Fallon arrives at the Warner Bros. premiere of the film ‘Ocean’s Twelve’ at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre December 8, 2004 in Hollywood California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Actors Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon make an appearance on MTV’s Total Request Live on April 5, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)

Producer Nancy Juvonen (L) and actor Jimmy Fallon arrive for the premier of the film ‘Music and Lyrics’ in Los Angeles, California, 07 February 2007. (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – JUNE 04: Actor Jimmy Fallon attends Columbia Pictures’ screening of ‘You Don’t Mess With The Zohan’ on June 4, 2008 at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. (Photo by Rob Loud/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – AUGUST 29: Host Jimmy Fallon speaks onstage at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 28: TV personality Jimmy Fallon attends the Museum of the Moving Image salute to Alec Baldwin at Cipriani 42nd Street on February 28, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON — Season: 1 — Pictured: Host Jimmy Fallon — (Photo by: James White/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON — Episode 0001 — Pictured: Host Jimmy Fallon on February 17, 2014 — (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

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“I had to really examine myself in the mirror this week because a story came out about me on ‘SNL’ doing an impression of Chris Rock in blackface,” he said. “And I was horrified. Not of people trying to cancel me or cancel this show, which is scary enough. But the thing that haunted me the most was, ‘How do I say I love this person?

“I respect this guy more than I respect most humans,’” Fallon said of Rock, his former “Saturday Night Live” castmate. “‘I’m not a racist. I don’t feel this way.’”

When the “Saturday Night Live” clip, which first aired in 2000, resurfaced and was getting backlash online, Fallon said initially he “kept getting advised to just stay quiet and not say anything.” “That’s the advice,” he said,” because we’re all afraid.”

At the risk of saying something that might get him in more trouble, Fallon explained to his audience, he issued a written statement on Twitter that said, “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.”

But after demonstrations last weekend about systemic racism and the need for criminal justice reform, Fallon said he realized he had to do more.

“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. And we need to stop saying ‘That’s not OK’ more than just one day on Twitter,” he said.

Fallon said it’s not enough to take to social media to offer thoughts and prayers. It takes action for any real change to occur.

“We cannot try to bury this again. It’s not going to get buried, it’s not going away,” he said. “You can’t just hope everyone loves each other. We can’t say ‘be the change’ and just sit around tweeting ‘be the change, be the change.’”

He then introduced NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who praised Fallon’s monologue. “In this time, many people are searching for answers and display of anger and hopelessness and wandering, more people need to speak about where they are with an authentic voice,” Johnson said. “I think you did that.”

Later in the show, Fallon was joined by CNN’s Don Lemon, who said there was a path to a better America if people stopped “making excuses for racism.”

“We can’t go back to the way we were before,” Lemon said. “This is a time for us to change. I appreciate you for stepping up and being a leader.”

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