NBC Deletes Rap Star’s Remarks on Telethon

Times Staff Writers

Kanye West’s impromptu attack on President Bush during a live telecast Friday prompted NBC to delete his remark in its West Coast broadcast of the benefit for hurricane victims.

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” West said.

The rap star also criticized coverage of the catastrophe. “I hate the way they portray us in the media,” West said. “If you see a black family, it says they’re looting. See a white family, it says they’re looking for food.”

West’s remarks aired unedited in NBC’s East Coast and Midwestern markets, and also on the simulcast versions for MSNBC, CNBC and Pax. However, the network turned off his microphone and switched to another performer shortly after he mentioned Bush.


The criticism of the president was deleted from the version that appeared on the West Coast three hours later on tape delay.

West Coast viewers did, however, hear West’s criticisms of the media and the pace of the relief.

NBC officials said the network made the decision to cut the Bush remark because of a desire not to politicize the concert and possibly dissuade viewers from donating.

The benefit “was a live television event wrought with emotion,” said NBC spokeswoman Rebecca Marks. “Kanye West departed from the scripted comments that were prepared for him and in no way represents the views of the networks. It would be most unfortunate if the efforts of the artists who participated and the millions of Americans who are helping those in need are overshadowed by one person’s personal opinion.”

During the middle of the telethon, West was paired with actor Mike Myers, who began with prepared remarks. Myers appeared surprised after West began criticizing the media’s portrayal of blacks and the pace of rescue and relief efforts.

Myers waited for West to finish and then spoke again, sticking to the script.

After a short pause, West said: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Within minutes, MSNBC President Rick Kaplan, who produced the telethon at Rockefeller Plaza in New York, had cameras cut to actor Chris Tucker, who was on a different part of the stage and who appeared to be looking at something off camera. Viewers could hear West’s voice trailing away as his audio was switched off and Tucker began reading from prepared remarks.

Although the event was aired with a brief time delay so technicians could edit out profanity, it took a few minutes for producers to realize that West had strayed from the script.

At the end of the program, host Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” referred to the high level of emotion surrounding the hurricane’s aftermath. He did not address West’s remarks directly.

Officials did not have a final tally of the money raised, but Marks said she thought it was a “very substantial” amount.

Gold reported from New York, Collins from Los Angeles. Staff writer Robert Hilburn and Times wire services also contributed to this report.