David Letterman Netflix Show Cut Out Kanye ‘Ye’ West Comments on ‘Nazis’ and Rihanna Payback (Exclusive)

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Audience members at the live taping said it was “shocking” the comments were removed

Netflix and David Letterman’s production company edited out comments by Kanye “Ye” West that referenced Nazis and blamed Rihanna for her own domestic abuse during a 2019 interview with the comedian for his talk show, multiple audience members at the taping told TheWrap.

The comments were made during a wide-ranging interview taped before a live audience for Season 2 of the comedian’s Netflix talk show “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman.”

Audience members Noah Reich and David Maldonado of Los Angeles told TheWrap they were sitting in the center front row of a local theater in January 2019 when West, who has since legally changed his name to Ye, repeated right-wing conspiracy theories, observed that liberals treated anyone wearing a red pro-Trump cap “like they were Nazis” and noted that Rihanna, a former victim of domestic abuse, must have done something to deserve what happened to her.

These comments were largely not included in the version that has streamed on Netflix, according to audience members at the taping.

“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 told TheWrap.

Some of the aired episode was devoted to Letterman discussing and trying on the rapper’s Yeezy clothes and shoes and the rapper’s Sunday Service song-and-prayer gatherings. The show did include one comment about liberals bullying then-President Donald Trump supporters as well as some #MeToo discussion.

Other Ye comments that were edited out included a rant about how an unnamed music executive friend – whom Reich and Maldonado suspected was R. Kelly (but may have referred to executive Russell Simmons, accused of sexual assault by multiple women) – got “MeToo-ed” and how West himself could be “MeToo-ed,” they said. The rapper also repeatedly referenced a Hollywood power structure that he suggested was behind the #MeToo movement, which Reich said struck him as a reference to Jewish people. 

Reich and Maldonado said they heard Ye complain that the media always seemed to support women over men when misconduct allegations surfaced. As one example, Maldonado recalled that Ye complained that “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.” In 2009, singer Chris Brown pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge after a brutal attack on his then-girlfriend, Rihanna.

The fact that some of Ye’s comments didn’t make the cut first surfaced in late October in a newsletter service by writer Elad Nehorai.

The Wrap could not independently verify Ye’s words at the Jan. 14, 2019 taping at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Netflix did not provide a copy of the tape or a transcript of the entire interview when asked. Audience members were prohibited from recording the live taping, attendees said. Representatives listed for West on IMDb and elsewhere did not respond to requests for comment.

Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, Inc., producer of “My Next Guest,” told TheWrap in a written statement that the series was “an edited conversation show” and shot for more than five hours over two days with West and then edited down to a 55-minute episode.

“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, which led to a personal discussion about mental illness, its stigma and treatment, and for the first time he talked about what he experiences when he has bipolar episodes,” the production company stated.

“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.”

Worldwide Pants, which is one of two production companies of the talk show, also stated that “unfounded attacks on specific individuals are not included out of privacy, accuracy and legal concerns.”

A Netflix spokesperson largely echoed those sentiments, saying the episode was edited for time and that producers tried to accurately represent the conversation and the variety of issues addressed, including the rapper’s views about the #MeToo movement and his belief that the media are biased and intolerant.

But not all controversial statements were challenged by Letterman, Reich and other audience members said, and Ye often seemed to dominate the 90-minute interview and jumped from topic to topic, which seemed to frustrate the host. At one point, Ye told Letterman that he had not taken medicine for his bipolar disorder for about eight months.

Reich, the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, said Ye’s “Nazis” comment was “very bothersome” to him, particularly because it came a few months after the deadly Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, where the couple had just visited to create memorial pieces on site to honor the victims. “Seeing first-hand what this sort of hate rhetoric leads to … felt like a distortion of the truth,” said Reich, who co-founded the nonprofit Classroom of Compassion with Maldonado.

After Ye said Trump supporters are treated as if they are Nazis, Reich recalled that he said out loud, “because they are Nazis” — which he said elicited some applause from others in the audience. 

Ye’s apparent fascination with Hitler and Nazis has come under scrutiny in light of his most recent antisemitic comments –  including declaring on social media that he was going “death con 3” on Jewish people –  as companies like Adidas and Balenciaga have severed ties with him.

After Ye later appeared to single Reich out during the interview, Reich said he told Ye that he was “talking about MeToo like it’s the flu and it’s something that will go away when it’s a movement for women who haven’t had a voice until now.”

He then asked Ye, “Who are you advocating for?”

Several audience members then spoke up after Reich did, with one woman asking, “What do you mean by ‘MeToo-ed’?” and another asking, “Are you talking about sexual harassment?” Reich said. He said there was no answer or acknowledgment from Ye or Letterman to the audience members’ questions, and then the host asked a final question about the rapper’s Sunday Service project.

The effect of the editing decisions was that the episode that aired in May 2019 felt significantly different to some audience members from the interview at the theater.

Another audience member who attended the taping that night and asked to be identified as Larry F. for privacy reasons said he and his wife were disappointed that some of Ye’s more controversial statements were not in the episode. “Not sure what legalities they’re dealing with (but) I don’t think what we saw on Netflix was an honest assessment of what went on that night,” he said.

This is not the first time that controversial comments made by Ye were cut out of televised interviews. Ye praised Hitler and Nazis during a TMZ live taping in 2018 in which the rapper and fashion designer infamously said that “slavery is a choice,” according to recent reports. Former TMZ staffer Van Lathan said in a recent Higher Learning podcast episode that West said something like “I love Hitler. I love Nazis” but that those comments were not included in the final cut for reasons that were unknown to him. TMZ did not respond to a request to explain the edit.

Vice’s Motherboard also revealed last month some anti-Jewish and bizarre statements that Ye made to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that were cut out of the two-part interview that aired on the network last month. 

Meanwhile, the YouTube series “The Shop: Uninterrupted” announced that it was not going to air an episode with Ye due to him reiterating “more hate speech and very ugly stereotypes” during their interview.

One media expert said the decision of what to keep or edit out of a celebrity interview can vary widely, but because the rapper has a history of making inflammatory statements, people are treating such decisions “as a coverup.” 

“It’s a tough call,” said Karen North, a communications professor at USC’s Annenberg School. “I can see interviewers, directors, journalists and producers trying to make a decision about whether or not it’s okay to show certain behaviors because it’s hard to determine whether that behavior comes from an immoral unethical part of a person or if it’s the result of a mental illness.”