Jimmy Kimmel has apologised for his ''thoughtless'' past blackface sketches.

The 52-year-old talk show host has issued a statement addressing past sketches in which he appeared in blackface to impersonate stars such as NBA player Karl Malone, and has said he is sorry to those who have been ''genuinely hurt or offended'' by his actions.

He wrote in a lengthy statement: ''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 and cheer for leaders who use prejudice to divide us. That delay was a mistake. There is nothing more important to me than your respect, and I apologise to those who were genuinely hurt or offended by the makeup I wore or the words I spoke.''

Jimmy went on to speak about the Karl Malone sketches in particular, which were filmed in the 90s and feature the comedian in makeup to alter his skin colour.

He added: ''On KROQ radio in the mid-90s, I did a recurring impression of the NBA player Karl Malone. In the late 90s, I continued impersonating Malone on TV. 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 colour than it did his bulging muscles and bald head.''

The 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' star has also impersonated the likes of Snoop Dogg in the past, and has said he now realises his sketches were ''embarrassing''.

He explained: ''In each case, I thought of them as impersonations of celebrities and nothing more. 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.

''I believe that I have evolved and matured over the last twenty-plus years, and I hope that is evident to anyone who watches my show. 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.''