ABC/Heidi Gutman(LOS ANGELES) — Jimmy Kimmel apologized for a series of impressions of African-American celebrities he performed in the past when he was a personality on Los Angeles’ KROQ radio station and, later, on TV’s The Man Show. While on the latter, he imitated NBA star Karl Malone, while wearing blackface.

“I have long been reluctant to address this, as I knew doing so would be celebrated as a victory by those who equate apologies with weakness…That delay was a mistake,” Kimmel said in a statement.

“…I apologize to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.”

Kimmel continued, “We hired makeup artists to make me look as much like Karl Malone as possible. I never considered that this might be seen as anything other than an imitation of a fellow human being, one that had no more to do with Karl’s skin color than it did his bulging muscles and bald head.”

He added of that imitation, and others like Snoop Dogg and Oprah, “Looking back, many of these sketches are embarrassing, and it is frustrating that these thoughtless moments have become a weapon used by some to diminish my criticisms of social and other injustices.”

Kimmel insists he’s “evolved” since then, and denied that his recently announced summer off from Jimmy Kimmel Live! had anything to do with the old sketches surfacing online. He insists the vacation was “planned for months,” and that he’d be back at work in September. 

Kimmel closed with, “I know that this will not be the last I hear of this and that it will be used again to try to quiet me.  I love this country too much to allow that. I won’t be bullied into silence by those who feign outrage to advance their oppressive and genuinely racist agendas.”

Kimmel’s apology comes shortly after his fellow late-night host Jimmy Fallon apologized for a blackface imitation of Chris Rock.

By Stephen IervolinoCopyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved