In an interview slated to be broadcast next Monday at 8pm ET, former President George W. Bush will say that criticism by Kanye West — in which the then-president was dubbed a “racist” — was the “worst moment” of his presidency.
“I didn’t appreciate it then,” Bush says. “I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.” It’s another thing to say, “This man’s a racist.” I resent it, it’s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency.”
Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, who caught the quip, wrote that “while it was obviously rare and off-putting for a rap star to insist that the president didn’t care about black people, it’s also somewhat unexpected that that would be Bush’s personal, political nadir.”
Excerpts from the interview with NBC News’ Matt Lauer follow.
MATT LAUER: About a week after the storm hit NBC aired a telethon asking for help for the victims of Katrina. We had celebrities coming in to ask for money. And I remember it vividly because I hosted it. And at one part of the evening I introduced Kanye West. Were you watching?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Nope.
MATT LAUER: You remember what he said?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I do. He called me a racist.
MATT LAUER: Well, what he said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: That’s — “he’s a racist.” And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.” It’s another thing to say, “This man’s a racist.” I resent it, it’s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency.
MATT LAUER: This from the book. “Five years later I can barely write those words without feeling disgust.” You go on. “I faced a lot of criticism as President. I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all time low.”
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah. I still feel that way as you read those words. I felt ‘em when I heard ‘em, felt ‘em when I wrote ‘em and I felt ‘em when I’m listening to ‘em.
MATT LAUER: You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your Presidency?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And– it was a disgusting moment.
Kanye West’s remark, broadcast during a telethon to fundraise for victims of Hurricane Katrina, follows.