Van Lathan couldn't let Kanye's statements go unchecked.
Van Lathan couldn't let Kanye's statements go unchecked.

‘Why I stood up to Kanye’

TMZ staffer Van Lathan became an internet hero yesterday when footage circulated showing him doing what it appears so few have done: challenging Kanye West, face-to-face, on his incendiary public statements.

Lathan leapt from his seat in the TMZ offices after West had declared that centuries of living under slavery was a choice made by African-Americans.

West stood mute as Lathan chastised the star, telling him: "I actually don't think you're thinking anything. I think what you're doing right now is actually the absence of thought."

Lathan's speech earned him widespread praise - and about 70,000 new Twitter followers since yesterday - and in a new interview posted by TMZ, the podcaster explained why he couldn't stay silent as West spoke.

"The thing that got me out of my seat was when he said, 'Slavery, 400 years, at a certain point that's a choice.' Now, the only reason why you have to combat ideas like that very vehemently is that if Kanye West does know the actual mechanism of slavery and how it worked, it was obviously far from a choice," he explained.

"I think [West's] overall point is to get people to divorce themselves from their victimhood.

"Once again, me and Kanye are in agreement on that. Is Kanye West pro-slavery, or is he blaming African-Americans for slavery? I highly doubt it. But I think that context and restraint are very important when you're trying to make a salient point. He missed out on the opportunity to do that because he was in a stream of consciousness rant."


Lathan was talking to a fellow TMZ staff member who had anchored yesterday's interview with West - and who said he "didn't sleep last night," so concerned was he "that we ended up with a show where the headline was 'Kanye West believes, essentially, slaves have a choice'. I don't think he meant it."

Lathan argued that challenging West's statements was important, regardless of whether or not he'd meant what he'd said.

"Everything that happened yesterday, to me, is OK. Even the people that are calling him on it now, it's still OK. It's OK to get him to understand that only focused thoughts will be accepted from somebody who has a voice that big," Lathan said.

"When he was ranting about Louis Vuitton and the fashion industry, it had very little effect on our lives. It was something we could get behind: 'Maybe he has a point.' With these things, they do affect our lives."

Despite the widespread backlash over West's statements, Lathan said he thought the controversy would "probably not" hurt the star, who has announced several new musical projects for release next month.

"Inspiration is a very powerful thing, and Kanye West has inspired a lot of people for years and years. Once that inspiration starts flowing out again, people are going to remember why they loved him," Lathan said.

"I just hope that they do so responsibly, and that they hold him accountable for the things he says. Next month, a lot of music's gonna drop, people are gonna tune into it, and everything will be right again."

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