While President Bush has been making the rounds to promote his new book, he has made it known that he was extremely offended by Kanye West’s suggestion that he was a racist because of the response to Katrina:
“He called me a racist,” Bush tells reporter Matt Lauer. “And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it, it’s not true.” (“Matt Lauer Reports”)
Bush goes into further detail in his upcoming new book, Decision Points.
“Five years later I can barely write those words without feeling disgust.” Lauer adds, “You go on: ‘I faced a lot of criticism as President. I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low.’ (Entertainment Weekly)
Naturally, the media has been reaching out to Kanye West, who has an ego the size of a small planet, to get his reaction to this. It turned out that his reaction was a little surprising. Here’s part of what he had to say about it on Twitter today,
Man I’m heading to Abu Dhabi finna go to Ferrari Land YESSSS!!!
….but before I take off let me tell you how they did me at the Today show.
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…
While I was trying to give the interview they started playing the “MTV” under me with audio!!!!!!!
I don’t mess with Matt Lauer or the Today Show … and that’s a very nice way for me to put it!
HE TRIED TO FORCE MY ANSWERS. IT WAS VERY BRUTAL AND I CAME THERE WITH ONLY POSITIVE INTENT.
After reading that, I decided to check around and see if West had made any other comments about the issue. Actually, it turns out that he has:
“Well I can definitely understand the way he feels to be accused of being a racist in any way because the same thing happened to me [with Taylor Swift], you know, where I got accused of being racist, and with both situations it was basically a lack of compassion that America saw,” he said in an interview. “With him it was a lack of compassion not rushing, you know, taking his time to rush down to New Orleans. With me, it was a lack of compassion in cutting someone off in their moment, but none the less I feel we’re all quick to pull the race card [in America]. And now I’m more open, and the poetic justice that I feel to go through the same thing that he went [through], and now I really more connect with him on a humanitarian level … the next morning when he felt that, I felt the same thing.”
Granted, that’s a third rate apology from Kanye West, but it’s Kanye West, so what do you expect? Long story short: Kanye West no longer thinks George Bush “doesn’t care about black people.”
It’s also worth noting that what happened during Katrina is still being completely misrepresented by the media. The responsibility for handling the disaster and the problems associated with it were almost entirely on the state level. The local government in New Orleans had done almost no planning, the police force collapsed, the governor of Louisiana had no idea what to do, the media was feeding the public a constant stream of misinformation about what was going on, and the federal government’s reaction was actually faster and more effective than it had ever been before. The problem was that it wasn’t fast enough or effective enough to make up for the complete and utter failure of the local government in Louisiana.
In any case, half hearted though it may be, Kanye West deserves some credit for walking back from one of the dumbest quotes of the last decade.
Update #1: To Kanye West’s credit, he said this when he talked to Matt Lauer:
I would tell George Bush, in my moment of frustration, 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.
That’s at least a second rate apology, which is better than I would have expected from him.