Kanye West said Friday that criticizing President Bush during a live Hurricane Katrina relief telethon was “the least” he could do.
“People have lost their lives, lost their families. It’s the least I could do to go up there and say something from my heart, to say something that’s real,” West said Friday morning on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Last week during the televised Concert for Hurricane Relief, West declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” and said America is set up “to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible.”
Though comedian Mike Myers, who was on stage with West during the benefit, looked shocked at his comments, West said that he’d given him some warning. “I told Mike ‘Yo, I’m going to ad lib a little bit,'” West told DeGeneres. “I went up to Chris Tucker and said ‘Get ready for live TV.'”
West explained that “I’ve been brutally honest since I was a little kid” and that he couldn’t keep quiet in the face of all the despair and suffering he witnessed on TV in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“I wanted to bullet point these things that disturb me so much.”
West’s controversial comments were aired live on NBC on the East Coast but edited out of the West Coast version of the benefit.
The Rev. Al Sharpton decried the network’s decision saying: “I think they should let Kanye say what needs to be said and let the president defend it if he wants to.”
President Bush has not publicly addressed West’s comments.
Music mogul Jay-Z also stood up for West this week. “I’m backing Kanye 100 percent,” he told Billboard. “This is America. You should be able to say what you want to say. We have freedom of speech.”
Meanwhile, Joel Gallen, the producer of Friday’s planned Katrina telethon, Shelter From the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast, said no special precautions will be taken to edit out political statements – even though West is on the bill.
“I think people understand that politicizing this will certainly not be a smart thing to do as far as inspiring people to call in and rally around this cause,” Gallen said.