*After Kanye West fired off a series of tweets Wednesday complaining of being “misused” in his “Today” show interview about George W. Bush, co-host Matt Lauer responded this morning by playing a longer version of West’s pre-taped interview to explain his actions.
During Lauer’s live interview with President Bush on Wednesday, the co-anchor played a snippet of West’s interview taped the previous day, in which the rapper said he “didn’t have the grounds to call Bush a racist” during a 2005 telethon for Hurricane Katrina.
In his new book “Decision Points,” Bush characterizes West’s comment, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” as the worst of his presidency, and had expressed to Lauer that the words upset him: “He called me a racist…I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now.”
“Today” then secured an interview with West. When the rap star was asked by Lauer about his characterization of Bush as a racist, 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 in the lone portion of the interview played for Bush on Wednesday.
The former president 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 that he had been misused by the “Today” show and by Lauer. His main complaint was that the show began airing b-roll of his Taylor Swift debacle (with the sound low, but audible) when the conversation turned to his interruption of her at the MTV Video Music Awards. West was attempting to explain how he felt unfairly labeled as a racist after the Swift incident, and how his own comments put Bush in a similar situation.
“I went up [to ‘Today’] to express how I was empathetic to Bush because I labeled him a racist and years later, I got labeled as a racist…,” West explained in a tweet.
In the unedited interview that aired this morning, West was shown stopping mid-answer to complain that the clip was distracting, telling Lauer it’s difficult to answer the question with it playing in his ear.
Lauer responded by telling production to turn the sound down.
At another point in the interview, Lauer told West to look at “the emotion” on Bush’s face in the monitor as the president discussed West’s 2005 comment. Lauer then asked West what he would say to Bush, knowing how hurt he was by the “racist” label. West was clearly put off by the question, saying he doesn’t need to look at Bush in the monitor to understand his feelings. He then accused Matt of trying to manipulate his responses.
He also expressed the sentiment in a tweet hours later: “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.”
Also during the interview, West stopped mid-sentence a second time to tell some people off camera to be quiet.
In response, “Today” said only that it looked forward to airing the Lauer interview with West – which took place this morning. [Watch in its entirety below.]