Hamilton: After we cut to commercial there were three conversations I remember half-hearing: “Okay what happens to Kanye now? How do we make sure Taylor’s okay? And how do we make sure Beyoncé’s okay?” The biggest concern was for Taylor, and making sure she was cool with it.
Toffler: Once it happened, we went to commercial break and I said to Dave Sirulnick, "Dave, you need to go get Kanye out of the building and I need to go see Taylor, her mom and manager, because she was set to perform one or two acts later." [Sirulnick declined to speak with Billboard for this story.]
Because of my relationship with Taylor and her camp, I was going to deal with her. Her mom and she were crying, and I profusely apologized and I said, "I'm sorry, we didn't know. I know you have to perform in the next act and let me think about a way we can make it right for you. We're dealing with him now and I'm so sorry it ruined your moment." I didn't anticipate I'd have a crying artist and mom to deal with -- literally right before she has to go out on Sixth Avenue and stand on a car and sing her song.
Montgomery: [Kanye] was kind of hunched over, and you could tell he could feel the weight of everyone's stares. Within the next 5-10 minutes, he was ushered out of his seat and I followed behind him -- and out in the darkened hallways of Radio City, I saw him going up and having a very long, heated conversation with Dave Sirulnick about what happened. Dave saw me trailing behind and told me I wasn’t allowed to go up there. I waited at the foot of the stairs and watched them have a very animated conversation. Kanye was very upset about this, and he was kind of shocked that he was being asked to leave. I just remember it being a very chaotic moment where everyone was [going], "Is this really happening?" and everyone being very angry.
Cantiello: There was a stream of people coming down to do press after it, and I remember the All-American Rejects [singer] Tyson Ritter, and he was like, "Kanye's a jackass" or something -- like, "What the hell's he doing?" I remember Billie Joe from Green Day had strong words like, "What the hell was that? Let the girl have her moment!"
Itzkoff: Kanye was up for several awards that night, and every time they mentioned his name there would be a ripple through the audience. It upset the attendees in the room, and there would be more boos from the audience. Wale made a remark about Kanye -- "You can't fault a man for speaking his mind" -- and people groaned and booed. It did not go over well.
Toffler: I'm almost front of house at that point, and I have to go back to the truck. I see [Big Machine founder] Scott Borchetta and I say, "Please have her stay, I will figure out a way to deal with this." I walk behind the stage -- and sure enough there is Beyoncé and her dad, and she is crying. She was like, "I didn't know this was going to happen, I feel so bad for her." And that's when it started to click in my head, and maybe hers, about potentially having the whole arc play out in that one night.
I think perhaps for the only time in history at the VMAs -- we knew who was going to win the awards, we had a plan for it [but did not tell the artists ahead of time] -- at some point I let her know that she was probably going to be up on the podium at the end of the show for an award. And wouldn’t it be nice to have Taylor come up and have her moment then? I had to indicate to her that she needed to stay, and perhaps this is a way to have this come full circle and let [Taylor] have her moment. I would normally not say anything, but I had two crying artists.