NBC Producers Reflect on Katrina Concert’s ‘George Bush Moment’

By Mark Joyella 

Four days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, NBC aired a fundraising “Concert for Hurricane Relief” that will forever be remembered for one moment: when Kanye West said of the president, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

“I remember hearing the words that were coming out of his mouth and looking down at the script and [thinking], ‘this is not—this is not going well,’” Frank Radice, the show’s senior producer and musical director, told Slate’s Jeremy Stahl.

Producer Rick Kaplan cut away from West after the comment:

“I’m in the control room and I’m running the show, and I’m sitting there going, ‘I don’t know how to cut this off,’ ” Kaplan said of the transition. While the cut was certainly jarring and looked at the time like it was prompted directly by the provocativeness of the Bush remark, Kaplan insists that he was just looking for a natural out in an extremely unusual situation.

The Kayne moment was edited out of the West Coast feed of the concert–a decision Kaplan believes was a mistake. “I think it should have been looked at as a news event,” he said.