BY: Min Lee
HONG KONG – Harry Connick Jr. says he did the right thing by expressing his outrage at a blackface skit poking fun at the Jackson Five in Australia last week.
“I’m pleased with the way I handled the situation,” the 42-year-old American singer and actor told reporters today in Hong Kong, where he was promoting his new album “Your Songs.”
“I handled it in exactly the manner I thought was appropriate,” he said.
The skit was featured on an Australian TV variety show where Connick was a guest judge. Four men in blackface and with Afro wigs sang and danced behind a Michael Jackson impersonator wearing white makeup. Connick gave the performance a zero score. The host of “Hey Hey It’s Saturday,” Daryl Sommers, apologized to Connick at the end of the live show.
Connick said in response, “I just want to say, on behalf of my country, I know it was done humorously, but we’ve spent so much time trying to not make black people look like buffoons, that when we see something like that we take it really to heart.”
Public reaction in online forums was mixed. Some Australians said they were embarrassed such a racist sketch had been broadcast, while others said detractors were too politically correct and that the skit was funny.
Connick said he canceled an autograph session and interviews in Sydney after the show to let the controversy die down.
“It was very hot. It was a subject that was very, very controversial. So we just decided to take a couple of days off. I wasn’t worried about physical harm,” he said.
Blackface once was a part of minstrel shows in the United States, with whites playing stock black characters — usually demeaning stereotypes — after rubbing coal, grease or shoe polish on their faces.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.