Kelly sparked near-immediate online backlash on Tuesday morning with comments she made during a roundtable discussion on offensive costumes on her talk show Megyn Kelly Today. She apologized for the remarks following the segment.
“What is racist?” she asked a panel that included Jenna Bush Hager, Jacob Soboroff and Melissa Rivers. “You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay just as long as you were dressing as a character.”
She later apologized in an e-mail to colleagues, according to the Associated Press. “I realize now that such behavior is indeed wrong, and I am sorry. The history of blackface in our culture is abhorrent; the wounds too deep,” Kelly wrote.
See the e-mail below.
Here's the email Megyn Kelly sent to colleagues today apologizing for her comments on blackface Halloween costumes pic.twitter.com/cOVW1QWJB6— Tom Kludt (@TomKludt) October 23, 2018
Kelly had specifically spoken out in defense of Real Housewives of New York star Luann de Lesseps, who came under fire for appearing to darken her skin to dress up as Diana Ross last year. “She dressed as Diana Ross and she made her skin look darker than it really is,” Kelly said. “People said that was racist! And I don’t know, like, I thought, like, ‘Who doesn’t love Diana Ross?’ She wants to look like Diana Ross for one day. I don’t know how that got racist on Halloween.”
Megyn Kelly wonders what the big deal is about blackface pic.twitter.com/07yvYDuAYe— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) October 23, 2018
Celebrities including Padma Lakshmi, W. Kamau Bell, and Patton Oswalt were quick to criticize Kelly for her remarks, with Oswalt noting that blackface was certainly not considered socially acceptable when he and Kelly were growing up.
“Dear @megynkelly — you and I are approximately the same age,” he tweeted. “Blackface was NOT okay when we were kids. Take it from a big-hearted boy who just wanted to show his love for Nipsey Russell on the worst Halloween of my life.”
Dear @megynkelly — you and I are approximately the same age. Blackface was NOT okay when we were kids. Take it from a big-hearted boy who just wanted to show his love for Nipsey Russell on the worst Halloween of my life. https://t.co/pnsk0WmuTw— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) October 23, 2018
I cannot believe the ignorance on this in 2018. You are on national television. You have a responsibility to educate yourself on social issues @megynkelly. This is so damaging. https://t.co/R7UJzkDDG9 https://t.co/7qFkqGHfGJ— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) October 23, 2018
Kelly previously caught similar flak for saying that both Santa Claus and Jesus Christ were verifiably white on a 2013 episode of her Fox News show, The Kelly File.
See some more reactions to Kelly’s blackface comments below.
The only time Megyn Kelly would have a problem with blackface is if the person is also dressed as Santa Claus https://t.co/LfObbMDVfU— Patrick Monahan (@pattymo) October 23, 2018
Of course Megyn Kelly doesn’t see the problem with blackface. She doesn’t see the problem with Megyn Kelly https://t.co/4gUwAW1jVV— Jess Dweck (@TheDweck) October 23, 2018
Megyn Kelly's blackface defense was "Who doesn't love Diana Ross?", which is about what I expect from the Roger Sterling of daytime TV.— Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) October 23, 2018
I thought this might have been an exaggeration, but no, Megyn Kelly is really doing a “I don’t see what’s so offensive about blackface” https://t.co/xtECr43UMg— jamelle g-g-ghoulie ???? (@jbouie) October 23, 2018
What year did she grow up in?!!!!!?!!1!? https://t.co/XkGYrUMnx2— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) October 23, 2018
I gotta say, Megyn Kelly looks pretty good for someone born in 1907 https://t.co/5843CjnOb8— Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) October 23, 2018
A spokesperson for Kelly did not respond immediately to TIME’s request for comment.