“This Is Not Going Well”: NBC Producers Look Back on the Concert for Katrina’s Kanye Moment

On Sept. 2, 2005, four days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans with devastating impact, NBC gathered celebrities from TV, film, and music to raise money for the victims. “A Concert for Hurricane Relief” drew 8.5 million viewers and raised a reported $50 million, but that’s not what, 10 years later, it is remembered for. Instead, the benefit, hosted by Matt Lauer and featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, Glenn Close, and Lindsay Lohan, will go down as an important page in the Katrina story for one moment: when Kanye West, channeling a nation’s frustration at the federal government’s failure to help storm victims, looked straight into an NBC camera and said, on live TV, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”

In the years since, West stood by his remarks, Bush called it the “all-time low” point in his presidency, West subsequently expressed his regret, and Bush forgave him. Mike Myers, who stood in bewilderment next to West as he went wildly off script, now says he agrees with the essential message—that the government would not have failed a wealthier city with more White people in the same way—but you wouldn’t have known that from the look on his face at the time.



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