It took a few years, but Mike Myers realized Kanye West was right when he spoke out about human injustices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
In a new GQ interview, the Canadian comic actor finally opens up on the infamous 2005 incident, when West decried then U.S. president George W. Bush’s alleged inattention to Katrina survivors – on a live TV broadcast.
At the time, New Orleans and surrounding areas were still reeling from the devastation of the mammoth natural disaster and news channels were airing live coverage of survivors sitting on the roofs of their homes waiting for rescuers. Some waited for days.
Myers was standing beside West at the podium during the NBC’s live relief concert and it was evident to all watching that he was stunned by West’s decision to go way, way off-script. You can watch his shocked reaction here.
In the new interview, Myers admits that he wasn’t familiar with West or his work when he was asked to co-host the segment during the concert, but shortly before the broadcast the rapper “said he was going to take some liberties with the thing.”
And that was an understatement: During the segment, West called out what he viewed as injustices in the relief efforts post-Katrina and his rant included the now-famous line: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
Nine years later, Myers said, “For me it isn’t about the look of embarrassment on my face, it is truly about the injustice that was happening in New Orleans.”
Speaking with the benefit of hindsight, Myers said that he has since come to respect West’s blunt expression of opinion.
“I’m the guy next to the guy who spoke a truth. I assume that George Bush does care about black people – I mean, I don’t know him, I’m going to make that assumption – but I can definitely say that it appeared to me watching television that had that been white people, the government would have been there faster.”
Added Myers: “I remember just being so upset and feeling, ironically, that if this was white people on roofs, the army would be there in five seconds. And these are my fellow citizens, who just happen to be people of colour, sitting on roofs for multiple days.”
And in retrospect, the fact that most people talked about Myers’ aghast expression – instead of what was really going on in New Orleans at the time – seems to have made the entire incident worthwhile for Myers.
“To me that’s really the point – the look on my face is, to me, almost insulting to the true essence of what went down in New Orleans,” he said. “To have the emphasis on the look on my face versus the fact that somebody spoke truth to power at a time when somebody needed to speak? I’m very proud to have been next to him.”
For the record, West said in a 2010 interview on NBC’s Today Show, “I would tell George Bush, in my moment of frustration, that I didn’t have the grounds to call him a racist.”