David Letterman Really Tried to Protect Kanye from Himself
Kanye West’s ongoing anti-Semitic implosion has engulfed comedy royalty after an article from TheWrap alleged that numerous conspiracy-promiting and Rihanna-bashing comments were edited out of the controversial music mogul’s interview on an episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman from 2019.
According to a handful of audience members from the episode’s taping almost four years ago, the rapper, producer, and fashion designer spent an extended period of time during the interview to parrot far-right conspiracy theories and make unsubstantiated and upsetting attacks on Rihanna in regards to the ugly domestic abuse that the popstar suffered at the hands of Chris Brown in 2009. Letterman and his production company, Worldwide Pants Entertainment, are drawing criticism for their decision to edit such remarks from the program in an apparent attempt to protect the image of both their guest and the show itself.
Allow us to scratch off the “Sully the name of a late night icon” and “Attack victims of domestic abuse” tiles on our Kanye Meltdown Bingo cards.
Two audience members, Noah Reich and David Maldonado, told TheWrap that the final product that made it to Netflix was drastically edited from what they witnessed in person over the two days and five total hours of filming for My Next Guest. Reich and Maldonado claim that the cut content included statements by West which promoted far-right conspiracy theories as well as an unhinged diatribe on the #MeToo movement which included attacks on the women who have been subjected to abuse at the hands of powerful figures in entertainment, specifically the nine time Grammy-winning Barbadian singer Rihanna.
Said Reich, “It was shocking to see that Kanye West could share harmful alt-right beliefs, conspiracy theory after conspiracy and misogynistic beliefs about women for the majority of the interview and end up with an edit that removed all those items in favor of celebrity fluff content.” Reich and Maldonado both recalled how West steered the conversation towards the #MeToo movement by repeatedly claiming that a secretive Hollywood power structure was behind the push to bring down men responsible for abuse and misbehavior, a statement which Reich, the grandson of Holocaust survivors, interpreted as a reference to Jewish people.
Maldonado recalled West’s specific attacks on Rihanna, saying that West claimed, “Chris Brown’s career is basically over and you have Rihanna and everyone took her side. She must have done something to merit what happened to her.” This remark, among West’s many other inflammatory statements, was conspicuously absent from the final cut of the program.
The episode that streamed on Netflix focused mainly on West’s mental health struggles along with a light-hearted on-location segment where Letterman visited West’s house and tried on outfits from the mogul’s closet. While neither Netflix nor Worldwide Pants Incorporated have released the full transcript from the live show, the production company did release a statement in response to the criticism over their editing decisions:
“Nearly four years ago, in an interview for ‘My Next Guest,’ Kanye West discussed a wide range of topics with David Letterman, including, family, fatherhood, music and creativity. Kanye also told Dave that he had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder six months earlier,” the production company told TheWrap in a written statement. “Mr. West subsequently began an offensive rant about the MeToo movement. He also later spoke about liberals purportedly bullying Trump supporters, and about free speech being suppressed. These points were represented in the show, the producers went to great lengths to accurately present them, and Dave challenged him on each of these.”
But the episode itself doesn’t dwell on these more problematic points, at least not to the degree that those present for the taping felt it should have. It seems that Letterman and his producers decided that neither the series nor its guest would be served by a cut that showed the full breadth of West’s bizarre, bigotted, conspiratorial beliefs. Showing a humanized version of the music mogul and focusing on the positive aspects of his influence was prioritized over challenging the unfounded assertions he made, which feels more in-line with the way Letterman, an old-school late night legend, would traditionally treat his guests – a flattering and playful portrayal was better for everyone than a stark and challenging examination of an icon’s dark side.
Now if Kanye challenges the Pope to a kissing contest and calls John Wayne the second coming of Christ, we’ll finally have Bingo.