November 11, 2010 / 12:43 AM / 7 years ago

West, Bush and "Today" show spar over "racist" remark

3 Min Read

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rapper Kanye West on Wednesday complained of being misused in a new TV interview during which he pulled back from a 2005 comment he made that characterized former President George W. Bush as a racist.

But the outspoken rapper, who is known for his socially-conscious lyrics, did not say he was misquoted when the "Today" morning chat show interviewed him. Instead, in a series of Twitter messages, he said the program's co-host Matt Lauer had "tried to force my answers" to questions.

"Today" stood by its interview.

Kanye's tweets and the "Today" reaction, which both stemmed from statements made by Bush in his new White House Memoir "Decision Points," capped one of the more unusual back-and-forth exchanges in U.S. pop culture between the man once considered the most powerful in the world, a celebrity rapper and a television news program.

The three-way verbal sparring began when Bush hit the promotional circuit for "Decision Points" and was asked about passages that address comments West made on a television fund-raiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. On the program West said "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

In the book and in his own interview earlier this week on "Today," Bush told Lauer the comment upset him. "He called me a racist...I didn't appreciate it then. I don't appreciate it now."

"Today" then pursued an interview with West, which will air on Thursday, November 11. When asked by Lauer about those past comments, West seemed to soften his stance about the former president.

"I would tell George Bush in my moment of frustration that I didn't have the grounds to call him a racist. But I believe that in a situation of high emotion, like that, we as human beings don't always choose the right words," he said.

On Wednesday, Bush responded by saying, "I appreciate that. It wasn't just Kanye West who was talking like that during Katrina. I cited him as an example. I cited others as an example as well. And, I appreciate that."

Lauer asked Bush if his religious faith allowed him to forgive West, and Bush responded: "Absolutely. Of course it does. I'm not a hater. I didn't hate Kanye West."

Hours earlier, West had taken to Twitter and complained to his fans that he had been misused by the "Today" show and by Lauer. His main complaint seemed to be that while appearing on "Today," the show began airing another video underneath him that portrayed him in a negative light.

"I went up there to express how I was empathetic to Bush because I labeled him a racist and years later, I got labeled as a racist...," West tweeted.

About Lauer, West wrote: "He tried to force my answers. It was very brutal and I came here with only positive intent."

In another, he said: "I feel very alone very used very tortured very forced very misunderstood very hollow very very misused."

In response, "Today" said only that it looked forward to airing the Lauer interview with West.

Editing by Jill Serjeant

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