WASHINGTON - Following a bizarre rant from hip-hop superstar Kanye West in which he said 400 years of slavery was “a choice,” TMZ’s Harvey Levin said he was “stunned” at how the events unfolded Tuesday.
Levin told FOX 5’s Jim Lokay and Sarah Simmons that West didn’t show any signs of what was to come on “TMZ Live.”
“I don’t know where this came from,” Levin said. “I had breakfast with him on Sunday and we talked for almost two hours and I didn’t get a hint of any of this. He was lucid, cogent, he made sense, it was really interesting. We spent a lot of time talking about free thought, which is something I’m really into and think that this country is in great danger of losing because of the intolerance by the media and by people on social media. And he wanted to go on ‘TMZ Live’ and talk about all this, which I thought was great. I was just stunned at how this took a turn yesterday.”
West is no stranger to controversial moments. From saying on national TV that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during Hurricane Katrina to jumping on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, the rapper has a history of outlandish public comment.
“I think he got revved up because there was an audience here. There were people in the office working and at a point he turned around and said, ‘how come everyone’s so quiet?’ As soon as he said that I thought ‘what’s going on here, is he going to play to them?’ Then he turned around,” Levin recalled. “I think part of this is that he was here with Candace Owens who has spent a lot of time talking about slavery and her feeling is look forward, not backward, and I think he embraced that. I don’t know whether her view was expressed by him incorrectly or what it was, it’s hard for me to jump in his mind.”
While West’s statements were shocking, Levin told FOX 5 he worries about people’s efforts to silence free speech and the opinions that they don’t agree with.
“What’s happening in this society, the left and the right will bully you, they will try to silence you, they will try to bludgeon you and try to kill you if you don’t have the same point of view that they have,” Levin said. “It’s this pack mentality, and what’s happening are people are becoming afraid to express themselves or say anything that is outside of what they consider the right thing to say or do. I think that kind of intimidation is ruining this country on both sides.”
Levin said TMZ has been a target for some media, pointing to an email he said was received in January from the Washington Post.
Levin read the email aloud on FOX 5:
“I wonder if it would be possible to speak to Harvey Levin about TMZ’s coverage of Donald Trump. It has been interesting and against the grain, more positive than the rest of the mainstream media it seems to me, also surprising.”
“What does that mean? What is against the grain? Does that mean everybody’s got to report on Donald Trump the exact same way, and if they don’t, you're either our friend or our enemy,” Levin questioned.
In the video player above, watch Levin’s full interview with FOX 5.