Disney CEO Confronted on Jimmy Kimmel’s Blackface: We Consider ‘Context’

Disney CEO Bob Iger on Thursday was confronted about media hypocrisy when it comes to blackface. Two of ABC’s hosts, Jimmy Kimmel and Joy Behar, have both used blackface in the past. Yet, Iger insisted that “context” must be considered for these cases. (ABC, as a reminder, is owned by Disney.) 

Justin Danhof, the general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, forced Iger to discuss the issue, questioning him at Disney’s annual shareholder meeting in Missouri. Danhof, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project Director, quizzed, “I find it puzzling that the company seems okay with Kimmel’s and Behar’s previous racist actions. Can you comment on their use of blackface?” 

Iger started with a blanket declaration: “We don't condone the use of blackface under any circumstances in our world today.” He then seemed to equivocate: “We take into account context and –- in all cases we become aware of —  people that have been in blackface in public.” 

 

 

Iger insisted that Kimmel and behar were dealt with “privately.” 

And the specific incidents that you raised, we chose to deal with privately. We did not feel that it required any particular comment. And nor do we have anything to say about what actions we may have taken in that regard. And we have no comment about the actions that were taken by others that you cited except to say that it is something that we don’t condone.

Minimizing, Iger repeated, “And this particular incident – when we chose to deal with it as a private matter.” 

Speaking to the CEO, Danhof contrasted, “At NBC, a rival network to ABC, morning host Megyn Kelly lost her job, not for wearing blackface, but for having an insensitive discussion about the topic.” For more on Danhof’s confrontation with Iger, go here. To learn more about the National Center, go here

As FoxNews.com reported in February, “Kimmel wore blackface on numerous occasions, impersonating NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone as well as former daytime talk show host Oprah Winfrey in his Comedy Central series The Man Show.” 

As for Behar, the Media Research Center’s Kristine Marsh wrote about The View co-host's blackface incident, which she touted on-air:

A video has resurfaced online this week showing View co-host Joy Behar actually bragging about wearing "dark makeup" to dress up as an “African woman” for Halloween one year. That admission came during the May 13, 2016 episode of The View, dug up by the same website that found the Ralph Northam blackface photos.

A transcript of the question and answer is below. Click “expand” to read more.  

Disney shareholder meeting 
3/7/19

JUSTIN DANHOF (General Counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research): Good Morning, Mr. Iger. My name is Justin Danhof with the National Center for Public Policy Research. I am a Virginia resident, and my state has recently been embroiled in a political scandal over the use of blackface. Governor Ralph Northam has come under fire for one of his medical school yearbook photos which depicted an individual in blackface and another in a KKK hood. Disgusting. Individuals and organizations across the political spectrum have called for his resignation including Hillary Clinton, the Congressional Black Caucus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Kamala Harris, Planned Parenthood, the entire Virginia congressional delegation, and many more. Additionally, in Florida, the Secretary of State recently resigned after a photo from 15 years ago surfaced of him wearing blackface.

At NBC, a rival network to ABC, morning host Megyn Kelly lost her job, not for wearing blackface, but for having an insensitive discussion about the topic. ABC hosts were highly critical of Kelly’s comments at the time and were part of the media backlash that led to her ouster. However, two premier ABC hosts have their own sordid past with blackface. While on another network, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel donned blackface to mock a former professional athlete using what many would consider a racist minstrel dialect. Furthermore, The View host Joy Behar recently had a photo emerge in which she was donning blackface at a party.

Mr. Iger, with all of the pride that’s quite clear to everyone in this room — that the diversity that you place on Disney, the diversity of the characters and the film, the pride that you have when you talk about Black Panther, both at this meeting and in media interviews, I find it puzzling that the company seems okay with Kimmel’s and Behar’s previous racist actions. Can you comment on their use of blackface? And are they held to a different standard than politicians and newscasters because they are comedians? 

BOB IGER (Disney CEO): Well, first of all, thank you for coming again. I know you have attended these meetings in the past. We don’t condone the use of blackface under any circumstances in our world today. We take into account context and –- in all cases we become aware of –-  people that have been in blackface in public.

And the specific incidents that you raised, we chose to deal with privately. We did not feel that it required any particular comment. And nor do we have anything to say about what actions we may have taken in that regard. And we have no comment about the actions that were taken by others that you cited except to say that it is something that we don’t condone.

DAHOF: Okay, thanks. I would just put it out there that you are the most powerful man in Hollywood. So your public statements do mean a lot. So I’m just offering that.

IGER: I think that’s a complement.

DANHOF: It is.

IGER: But, thank you. We obviously take situations like this very seriously. We’ve taken swift action as a company at any point when we feel the behavior of someone that works for us is a discredit to our company, themselves, people who work for us, our customers, our society. And we’ve got a great track record there. And this particular incident – when we chose to deal with it as a private matter.


DANHOF: Okay, thanks.

 

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