Kanye West: Empathy or Empty Apology?

Every year on Thanksgiving Day, millions of viewers tune into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with thousands of performing entertainers to celebrate the festivities. This year, Kanye West made an appearance on the Big Apple float with an unhappy audience booing and chanting “Taylor” as West passed the crowd. Although the MTV Video Music Awards incident occurred more than a year ago, people haven’t forgotten West’s interruption during Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, voicing his opinion that Beyoncé had the best video of the year. In fact, people haven’t forgotten a lot of things West did in the past, and his reputation continues to suffer.

West has made many PR mistakes over the years. Besides his rash actions during the MTV Video Music Awards, one of his more unpopular public incidents was calling President George Bush a racist not too long after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Not only was it brash and uncalled for, but also it took him five years to make an apology on The Today Show with Matt Lauer.

West was invited on The Today Show to redeem himself and publicly apologize for his accusations against Bush. This “redemption” interview with Lauer, however, didn’t improve his reputation. West was rude and seemed aggravated with the way the interview was set up.

According to The New York Times, West went on a Twitter rant geared directly toward Lauer and The Today Show. West complained the video clips aired during the interview were a disruption and claimed they manipulated his responses. West later stated on Twitter that he would not be returning to The Today Show.

“I’m not performing on The Today Show for obvious reasons,” West tweeted on Nov. 12. “I’m so happy the world got to see just a small piece of ‘the set up.’”

It’s unclear what “the set up” really was, but to West, The Today Show was out to get him. Where is his PR representative? Do they not care or can they simply not control his actions? Does West even care that the majority of the public disagrees with his actions? Likely not. His career hasn’t suffered; he continues to produce award-winning music with plenty of loyal followers. Why change anything? Most celebrities fight hard to uphold their reputations, especially after they have made poor decisions upsetting the public. West sees himself differently, however.

“I am a creative person . . .,” West tweeted on Nov. 9. “I’m not a good celebrity but I’m a great artist . . . I’m tired of using my celebrity to sell my art.”

Some celebrities want to bounce back from their mistakes to make amends with the public. Michael Vick served his time and openly participated in an interview on “60 Minutes” answering any and all questions that were asked about his dog fighting past. After spending time in jail for drug-related charges, Robert Downey Jr. restored his career and became clean after checking himself into a rehabilitation center. Bill Clinton publicly admitted to, and apologized for, committing adultery while in presidential office.

Everybody has an opinion and everybody makes mistakes, but being a celebrity comes with strings attached. Sometimes that includes stepping up to the plate, accepting full responsibility, answering the pressing questions and meaning every word of it. If the public doesn’t seem satisfied, try again. West may never give in to this norm of responsibility until he sees a career shift. Until then, people will continue to disapprove of him.

By Hillary Stroud

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