TODAY   |  November 11, 2010

TODAY’s Lauer on Kanye West interview

In response to rapper Kanye West’s recent negative tweets about his interview on TODAY, Matt Lauer discusses his talk with West, saying “we stand by what happened in this interview.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> he is 0 nnot a stranger to controversy and back in the headlines about former president george w. bush . as we mentioned, president bush opens about the memoir in that famous moment when west said george bush doesn't care about black people . it's something i asked president bush about when we sat down recently in texas.

>> i didn't appreciate it then and i don't appreciate it now. it's one thing to say, you know, i don't appreciate the way he's handled his business, it's another thing to say the man's a racist. i resent it. it's not true. it's one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.

>> a two-term president who ran the country during katrina, 9/11 and wars in iraq and afghanistan and the financial meltdown and he's pointing the finger at kanye west and that incident as the worst moment in his presidency. i asked kanye west to respond to president bush 's remarks.

>> as far as it being the worst moment of his presidency, i can't really speak to that. you know, but as his take, his explanation, i completely agree with it. i empathize totally. i felt like that the entire time that, you know, i was being, you know, held as a hero and everyone saying, i'm so happy you said that. i didn't like you before but now i like you because you said this and you sit there and you know, in your heart as a person, that to, in a moment of emotion to peg someone or call a name or peg someone as a racist is not -- it's just not right.

>> there was great frustration with the response to hurricane katrina . there, we were standing there, it was just a few day, less than a week afterward. while most people expressed frustration, you did take it across the line and said, you made it a little more sinister, that the federal response to katrina was because of race. do you regret having said that now?

>> i don't want to speak on the word regret, and i think a lot of things that happened in america period are because of race, just the way this country was built in the struggle we had to get into, you know, position, you know, through media, through social position , through so many -- a way bigger conversation than that. but what i wanted to speak to with bush was just to say that i empathize with the idea of being pegged as a racist.

>> just play the tape, don't even listen this time. i want you to look at his face when he is commenting about you. look at him. this is the most emotional he got during my entire 3 1/2 hour interview with him. what would you say to him if he would meet with you face to face , i'm not sure he would but if he would.

>> i didn't need you guys to to the show me the tape to prompt my emotion.

>> look at his face. what would you say to him?

>> pre-looking aggravate his face, i wanted to say something to him right after the fact, would say, i don't have to do tv stuff with me, this is reality, the real thing going on. this is -- you know what i'm saying? i don't need all the jazz. i would say to -- can you be quiet for a second? i would tell george bush in my moment of frustration, that i didn't have the grounds to call him a racist.

>> you're sorry?

>> yeah, i'm sorry for --

>> i think i get the point.

>> i want to give it the exact perfect wording because everything that i say gets taken and drawn into headlines and i'm here to man up to different mistakes that i made and speak to the, you know, the moment when i pegged george bush as a racist. i came here to say that i made mistakes, that i've grown as a person, and that it's not as easy as boxing someone into a villain role or race role. i did not have the information, enough information in that situation, to call him a racist. that might have been the emotion that i felt, but me being a rational, well thought out, empathetic human being and thinking about it after the fact, i would have chosen different words. even in these times where i was considered to have done something so wrong, my motivation was from a good place, maybe mistimed, maybe not the right wording, not using or realizing the power of my words and the way they would stop the internet, but nonetheless, it's very pure and from a good place.

>> it sounds to me, not to oversimplify it, what you're saying is we're human, we make mistakes but we have to learn from our mistakes?

>> yes.

>> during the interview, kanye west also told me he empathized with president bush because he, too, talking about kanye , here, was called a racist when he interrupted taylor swift at the 2009 mtv music awards. as we often do today, we rolled video of that moment during his answer. we'll show you his reaction in a moment. after that interview, kanye fired off several tweets including this one, quote, i really wonder if matt lauer thought that blank was cool to play the mtv clip while i was speaking about bush. here's what he was talking about.

>> we're alluding to when you walked onto the stage and grabbed the mike from taylor swift , this wasn't a guy expressing his musical preference, a guy making a statement of race, that beyonce was greater than taylor swift and you got accused of racism.

>> it was so funny to me it could be a race thing, i was expressing my frustration from years and years of seeing -- you know -- how am i supposed to talk if you're going to run this thing in the middle of while i'm talking.

>> it's under. you won't be hearing it.

>> i'm hearing it while i try to talk.

>> could you take the sound out. you said it wasn't a race thing.

>> please don't let that happen. it's [ bleep ] ridiculous.

>> it's something we do everyday, when a guest is talking about an incident or a location, we run video of that location or that incident. there was nothing improper about it, nothing unusual about it.

>> right. very common.

>> whatsoever. we should mention president bush was here wednesday and he said he appreciated west's apology. that's what all the hubbub is about.

>> okay. doesn't seem like much but --

>> we look forward to kanye 's return for a special live concert on the plaza, friday, november 26th , the day after thanksgiving.