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For the Record: Standing Up to Kanye’s Hate Speech

The rapper's 'Drink Champs' interview has been taken down by Diddy's media company. It never should have been shown.

At this point, who would book Kanye West – especially to sit down with an interviewer who doesn’t generally challenge his guests?

On Oct. 7, West, now known as Ye, tweeted that he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” Days later, Vice reported on unaired footage from the rapper’s Tucker Carlson interview, in which he made a series of bizarre and anti-Semitic comments, on how he wants to create “kinetic energy communities” and would rather his children celebrate Hanukkah, since “at least it will come with some financial engineering.” Then an episode of The Shop was canceled because West used the interview to “reiterate more hate speech and extremely dangerous stereotypes,” according to the CEO of the company behind the show.

After all this, West was booked to appear on the Oct. 15 episode of the podcast Drink Champs, which is shown on Revolt, the cable television and online media company founded by Sean “Diddy” Combs. (It was preceded by a disclaimer saying it does not reflect his views.) And guess what? West ranted about the “Jewish media,” called Planned Parenthood “our Holocaust Museum,” and said Jewish lawyers made so much money because they would divorce people when Catholics wouldn’t. He also falsely blamed George Floyd’s death on fentanyl, rather than on the police officer who murdered him. As West ranted, N.O.R.E., the show’s host — who has since apologized — basically just sat there, murmuring “mmm” and, occasionally, “hmm-mmm.”

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Drink Champs is supposed to be informal, but a better interviewer would have at least pointed out that Drake, who West said in the interview was “the greatest rapper ever,” is Jewish himself.’Revolt pulled the show offline yesterday afternoon – the company has not issued any statement or commented to Billboard on why it did so – although it’s easily available on YouTube, which should take it down as well. It’s worth asking why it was shown in the first place. One clue: N.O.R.E. tweeted that “my Ye interview got more views then (sic) football haha!!!” Except this isn’t funny. At a time when media companies are being more careful about hate speech – a good thing in my view – why does there seem to be an exception for anti-Semitism?

It’s easy to dismiss West’s interview — along with his latest, with Chris Cuomo — as the latest chapter in the very public breakdown of an incredibly talented musician, which is upsetting to see. What’s more disturbing is that anyone could have thought it was OK to show this. N.O.R.E. apologized on Breakfast Club, and said there were “four Jewish people in the room” who showed an “understanding where Kanye was coming from.”

The disclaimer that ran before Drink Champs says the show does “not reflect the views or opinions” of Combs or Revolt. Fair enough. Presumably Combs also didn’t agree with the July 4, 2020 speech by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom Facebook banned in 2019, along with Alex Jones and some right-wing figures, for engaging in hate speech. (Revolt hasn’t shown any of his speeches since then.) Weeks later, Combs tweeted a job offer to Nick Cannon, who had just lost his deal with ViacomCBS after a podcast interview with former Public Enemy “Minister of Information” Professor Griff that trafficked in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Like West, Cannon said he couldn’t be anti-Semitic because Black people are “the true Hebrews.”

Cannon apologized, and good for him. Revolt hasn’t. After Cannon sat down with a rabbi to talk about anti-Semitism, Jay Electronica called the rabbi a “coward” and challenged him to debate Farrakhan. Neither Combs nor Jay Electronica, who sampled Farrakhan on his debut album and got an 8.4 from Pitchfork, seems to have faced any consequences.

Revolt bills itself as “the unapologetic, authoritative voice of Hip Hop culture,” which is important and valuable. But that doesn’t mean guests should be allowed to engage in anti-Semitic or other conspiracy theories without being challenged. One of the frightening things about West’s rants is how much right-wingers with a history of racism seem to love them. This episode of Drink Champs was anti-Semitic and disrespectful to the memory of George Floyd, whose family is said to be considering a lawsuit against West. Revolt needs to apologize, to both Floyd’s family and the Jewish community, and make clear that it has no tolerance for anti-Semitism — and other music and media companies should do the same.

For the Record is a regular column from deputy editorial director Robert Levine analyzing news and trends in the music industry. Find more here.