Community and Civil Rights leaders were offended by disrespectful comments made by Emmy Host Jimmy Kimmel during this year’s Emmy Awards telecast. Kimmel referenced that famed attorney and community advocate Johnny L. Cochran, who died of a brain tumor in 2005, was in hell for defending O.J. Simpson during what has been dubbed the “Trial of the Century” where the football star was accused and later found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Noted attorney Ricky Ivie of the Law Offices of Ivie, McNeill and Wyatt said that “comments like the ones made by Kimmel are offensive not only to Johnny but also to African American lawyers all over the country. Johnny was a friend and one of the greatest legal minds in our profession. To insinuate that he was in hell for providing Mr. Simpson with a superior defense which is his constitutional right is utterly ridiculous”.
After Courtney B. Vance won Best Actor in a Limited Series Kimmel said “I have to believe Johnnie Cochran is smiling UP at us tonight.” Attorney Carl Douglas, who worked with Cochran for years and was also a part of the noted O.J. Simpson Defense “Dream Team” said, “That was a terribly offensive joke that Jimmy Kimmel made about my mentor and hero Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr.”
Cochran was a deeply religious man. He made no secret of the fact that he was a Christian and a lifelong member of 2nd Baptist Church in Los Angeles where Pastor William Epps served as the church’s senior pastor.
“What troubles me the most is that this was a scripted show and that Mr. Kimmel’s comments were not off the cuff but something written, I am certain vetted by producers, directors and several others including the comedian and late night host himself and no one noted that these comments were disrespectful and out of line,” said Danny J. Bakewell Sr., Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade chairman and executive publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel.
“For them to make a joke of one of our community’s most noted and respected leaders shows the simple disregard that the Emmys and Mr. Kimmel have for African Americans and the African American Community.
This year, the Emmys were allegedly going to focus on diversity, presenting a stark contrast to the Academy Awards seven months earlier, which received national criticism for its all-white acting nominees.
Earlier in the evening, Kimmel joked “The only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity,” before sarcastically urging audience members of color to thank their white colleagues for their “bravery.”
The show did highlight several winners of color — from Regina King for “American Crime” to Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown for The People vs. O.J. Simpson. “The People vs. O.J.” was one of the evening’s biggest winners.
Former Los Angeles Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke who is also an attorney was so offended by the comments that she penned an op-ed regarding the offensive statement. (see full op ed: Defending Our Hero Johnnie Cochran) In part, the former Supervisor stated, “Cochran liked to say he worked not only for the OJ’s but the No J’s” Reverend Jesse Jackson referred to him as ‘The People’s Lawyer’. No Johnny, I think you look down on us, not up.”
As of Sentinel Press time, the Emmys had not returned phone calls nor have they released a statement regarding Kimmel’s comments but several community leaders are calling for an apology by both Kimmel and The Emmys.