November 12, 2010 / 10:05 PM / 8 years ago

Kanye West cancels "Today" concert amid Bush flap

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hip-hop artist Kanye West on Friday canceled a performance on NBC’s “Today” show to protest what he called a “set up” when he was interviewed on the program over his flap with former President George W. Bush.

Entertainer Kanye West poses for a portrait while promoting his new collaborative book named "Thank You and You're Welcome" in New York May 22, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

West was due to perform on the morning talk show on November 26, the Friday after Thanksgiving, but canceled after the perceived slight during an appearance on “Today” on Wednesday. Live performances are ratings draws for “Today,” the top-rated U.S. morning talk show.

“I’m not performing on the Today Show for obvious reasons. I’m so happy the world got to see just a small piece of ‘the set up,’” West, among the most popular hip-hop stars, said on his Twitter page on Friday.

An NBC spokeswoman confirmed the performance was canceled.

The dispute stems from West’s comment after Hurricane Katrina five years ago that the slow U.S. government response was because Bush, president at the time, “doesn’t care about black people.”

The deadly 2005 hurricane devastated largely black areas in and around New Orleans.

Bush referred to West’s criticism in his recently released memoirs and told “Today” interviewer Matt Lauer: “I resent it. It’s not true. And it was one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.”

Bush’s remarks drew attention because, as Lauer said, they were the most emotional comments Bush made during a 3 1/2-hour interview that covered topics including the September 11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Katrina disaster.

Lauer had West on the program on Wednesday to discuss Bush’s reaction, and West backed off his criticism, saying, “I would tell George Bush in my moment of frustration that I didn’t have the grounds to call him a racist.”

But West grew agitated when producers played video during the interview, including silent video of Bush’s interview with Lauer.

“I didn’t need you guys to show me the tape to prompt my emotion,” West said.

Lauer then asked West about an incident during last year’s Video Music Awards ceremony when he grabbed the microphone to protest an award for Taylor Swift he said should have gone to Beyonce. “Today” played video of that incident with the sound at low volume.

“How am I supposed to talk if you’re going to run this thing while I’m talking?” West said. “Please don’t let that happen again. It’s like ridiculous.”

He later complained on Twitter about how he was treated, calling the display of the video disrespectful.

Lauer defended the use of video as standard television practice.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jerry Norton and Peter Cooney

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