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What made Kanye’s White House visit ‘a weird moment’ for the presidency

Rapper Kanye West met with President Trump at the White House Thursday, heaping praise on the president and expounding on economic policy, welfare and prison reform. He also shared details of his struggles with mental health. But some criticized West for ‘lashing out’ and relying on racial stereotypes. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the potential reception of West’s words.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And President Trump welcomed rapper Kanye West and former pro football great Jim Brown to the White House today to discuss everything from prison reform to welfare.

    In an Oval Office session, West heaped praise on the president and launched into free-form commentary.

  • Kanye West:

    People expect that, if you're black, you have to be Democrat. I have a — I have had conversations that basically say that welfare is the reason why a lot of black people end up being a Democrat.

    They say, first of all, it's a limit to an amount of jobs, so that the fathers lose the jobs. Then they say, we will give you more money for having more kids in your home.

    It was something about, when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman. That was — that's my favorite superhero. And you made a Superman cape for me.

    We can empower our factories. We can bring not only Adidas onshore. We can bring Foxconn to set up a factory in, I think, Minnesota, 53,000…

  • President Donald Trump:

    Wisconsin, yes. Wisconsin.

  • Kanye West:

    Yes, in Wisconsin. They have 4,000 jobs, people making $53,000 a year.

    But when we make everything in China and not in America, then we're cheating on our country. And we're putting people in positions that have to do illegal things to end up in the cheapest factory ever, the prison system.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I'll tell you what, that was pretty impressive thoughts.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • President Donald Trump:

    That was quite something. That was quite something.

  • Kanye West:

    It was from the soul.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Yes. Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For more on this, our White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor joins me now.

    So, Yamiche, you were telling me after Kanye West's comments, there was a strong reaction, most of it negative. What's behind that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, it was really a truly bizarre moment at the White House. And that's mainly because this was — it showed really the extreme change in Kanye West's politics.

    Kanye West was a rapper known for his social activism. He was a rapper also known for calling out President Trump. He famously said that President Bush didn't care about black people. So he was calling up President George W. Bush in that instance.

    And he was talking about Katrina and the fact that there were African-Americans who didn't feel as though they — the government cared about them after the response to the hurricane.

    Instead, now you have Kanye West saying that he's not only an outspoken supporter of President Trump, which, of course, would be in some ways normal. It's the fact that he said stuff like slavery is a choice.

    And he's also today in what would be almost a 10-minute monologue, he talked about really stereotypes that have been used against African-Americans throughout history. He said that at some point African-Americans like welfare,and the fact that there are not fathers in the homes of African-Americans.

    These are things that are, again, stereotypes, that are not true. So, a lot of people were looking at Kanye West and saying, who is this person, the rapper that we know as someone who was uplifting the African-American community?

    So now people are really, really questioning kind of where we go from here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We mentioned this was a meeting with Jim Brown. Why was Kanye West there?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Kanye West was there to advocate for criminal justice reform. Him, along with his wife, Kim Kardashian West, have both taken up this issue of criminal justice reform.

    His wife, Kim Kardashian, actually directly appealed to the president and got a prisoner released through that appeal. So he was talking about Larry Hoover today. And he was saying that there is — he was talking about the fact that Larry Hoover, who is a — really a founder or a co-founder of the Gangster Disciples, which is a street gang in Chicago, should be released.

    This is someone who's facing more than 100 years in prison because of murder. So Kanye West was basically supposed to be talking about that, but then went off on a tirade about his mental health issues and all sorts of other things.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Speculation, Yamiche, the president was welcoming this in part because it's an outreach to African-American voters to support him.

    What effect do we think this could have on the president's support?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    We don't have any polling yet, of course.

    But, essentially, this is likely not going to help President Trump or Kanye West really appeal to African-American Democrats or African-American Republicans.

    On the one hand, African-American Republicans want to have an audience with the president. They want to be talking about the economy, about wages, maybe about small business loans for the African-American communities across this country, but they're not getting the audience that Kanye West is getting.

    So that's angering black Republicans. And then on the black — for black Democrats, they see somebody who's really lashing out and using stereotypes. And that also isn't going to appeal to African-American voters.

    So, on both instances, this was really just, I think, a weird moment of the Trump presidency. And it was really about to celebrity reality TV stars chatting it up for 10 minutes, but not really much substance came out of this discussion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it was certainly one that got everybody's attention today.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And unusual, at the very least.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

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