LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — Before the last one had a chance to simmer down, Kanye West caused another stir, calling American slavery a “choice” in an interview Tuesday.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years, that sounds like choice,” West said on “TMZ Live” after questions on his pro-President Donald Trump posts and pictures that caused a dust-up last week. “You was there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all?”
“Do you feel like I’m thinking free and feeling free?” West asked the TMZ employees in the room.
“I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything,” TMZ’s Van Lathan quickly cracked back at West, as many would in the ensuing hours.
Lathan said while West gets to live the elite artist’s life, “the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats in our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was our choice.”
Symone D. Sanders, political commentator and CNN contributor, led the anti-West chorus on Twitter.
“Kanye is a dangerous caricature of a ‘free-thinking’ black person in America,” Sanders tweeted. “Frankly, I am disgusted and I’m over it. Also (I can’t believe I have to say this): Slavery was far from a choice.”
Others put it more briefly.
“Slavery wasn’t a choice,” Russ Bengtson tweeted, “but listening to Kanye is.”
West also told TMZ that he became addicted to opioids that doctors prescribed after he had liposuction surgery in 2016. He was hospitalized for a week and had to cut short his “Pablo” tour. West said the painkillers drove him to a “breakdown,” which became a “breakthrough” when he found himself again.
West also doubled down on his love of the president, which Trump has been returning in tweets.
“I just love Trump,” West said, adding that most in hip-hop agreed with him before Trump became president. “Trump is one of rap’s favorite people.”
West last week posted a photo of himself wearing one of Trump’s signature red campaign “Make America Great Again” hats and showcased that the president had signed it. “MAGA!” Trump responded in another tweet, using the acronym for his slogan.
West noted that his wife, reality star Kim Kardashian West, wanted him to clarify that he was not in lockstep with all the Republican president’s positions.
“My wife just called me and she wanted me to make this clear to everyone,” West wrote. “I don’t agree with everything Trump does. I don’t agree 100% with anyone but myself.”
West lent an air of celebrity to Trump, who has not been nearly as popular among movie and music stars as his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. He complained about struggling to lure big-name talent to his Inauguration and made a point of calling Roseanne Barr, a rare Trump supporter in Hollywood, for the recent success of her sitcom.
Trump has also consistently been supported by a small percentage of black voters.
West has recorded several best-selling albums and produced a buzzy fashion line and has the undeniable talent for attracting attention. He’s also been linked to several previous presidents, including when Obama called him “a jackass” in 2009 for storming the stage at an MTV awards show to interrupt Taylor Swift. And in 2005, during a telethon to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, West criticized the White House’s response to the storm by famously charging that “George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
There was quick backlash to West on Twitter on Wednesday.
“Kanye doesn’t care about black people,” tweeted comedian Akilah Hughes.
But others were quick to embrace West.
Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons, tweeted three American flags next to West’s declaration of dragon energy. His brother Donald Trump Jr. appropriated Hillary Clinton’s slogan, “#ImWithHer,” when he retweeted a Kardashian West post in which she denounced the media for calling the rap superstar erratic. And InfoWars host Alex Jones, a conspiracy theory promoter, invited West onto his show.
West has toyed with running for president himself and on Wednesday tweeted a poster of his face emblazoned with the slogan “Keep America Great” and “#Kanye2024.”
Coincidentally or not, West’s media circus of late is on the tails of an announcement that he has a new album coming out this summer.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)