TMZ's Van Lathan says he confronted Kanye West about slavery comment to 'get through' to him
"My purpose wasn't to call Kanye West out. It was to call Kanye West in."
The TMZ senior producer, who challenged Kanye West after he called slavery a “choice” in an interview Tuesday, says he felt an obligation to speak to the rapper directly about “why he should be more responsible with his words.”
Van Lathan wants people to know that his "purpose" wasn't to call out the Chicago rapper.
“My purpose wasn’t to call Kanye West out. It was to call Kanye West in and see maybe if I could get through to him,” Van Lathan told ABC News’ “Nightline.”
“Part of the reason why I felt so inspired in the moment to talk to him and direct my thoughts towards him is because [of] the profound impact that his music has had on my life and the disappointment that I’ve been feeling,” Lathan continued. “It seems like he’s fallen away from something that made him so powerful in the first place.”
"The Life of Pablo" musician was in the TMZ newsroom for an interview on “TMZ Live,” where he was asked about wearing a Make America Great Again hat and his support for President Donald Trump.
“I just love Trump. That’s my boy, like, you know, it’s like so many rappers -- you’ll look at a video of Snoop Dogg loving Trump, but then he gets in the office, and now they don’t love him. Trump is one of rap’s favorite people,” West said.
Later in the interview, West addressed American slavery.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years -- for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” he said. “Like, you was there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all? It's like we're mentally in prison.”
West then turned to the TMZ newsroom to pose a question.
“Do you feel that I’m being free?" he asked. "And I’m thinking free?”
Lathan, who was in the newsroom, stood up and responded to West.
“I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything," Lathan said. "I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought.”
He went on to explain to the mega producer that there are consequences for the things he tells the public.
“While you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives,” Lathan told West, as TMZ cameras were rolling. “We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a ‘choice.’ Frankly, I’m disappointed. I’m appalled. And, brother, I’m unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that’s not real.”
Lathan told “Nightline” that he felt compelled to speak up after West addressed the newsroom directly and was disappointed by West’s comments about slavery.
“I felt that did a great disservice to the people that sort of went through those horrendous things, who are my ancestors. I thought it was incumbent upon me to speak directly to Kanye West about why that’s wrongheaded and about why he should be more responsible with his words,” Lathan explained. “What he said was so particularly wrong and dangerous and shortsighted to me that I probably would’ve interjected even if he weren’t talking to me.”
West later addressed his appearance on "TMZ Live" in a tweet: “The universe has a plan. I knew that 'TMZ' would be awesome."
In since deleted tweets, he clarified what he said during the interview.
"To make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will," he wrote in the since deleted tweet. "My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved."
He continued, "They cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut ... they hung the most powerful in order to force fear into the others."
"The reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years," he added. "We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought It was just an idea."
After confronting West, Lathan said the rapper apologized to him.
“And then he went on to describe things in greater detail that he felt like were plaguing the black community, and Kanye West and I agree on some of those things,” he said.
Lathan said he doesn’t believe West is trying to hurt or marginalize anyone, but “if he uses the power that he has incorrectly or if he uses it recklessly, that’s exactly what he’ll end up doing.”
“Kanye West is not going to find very many friends within hip-hop or within the black community if he continues to show his support for Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn't do it,” said Lathan. “If he really truly loves Donald Trump and agrees with Donald Trump, this is America, he should support him.”
Lathan, who’s been a longtime fan of West’s music, said he’s going to take a break from the rapper.
“I don’t know how long that break will be," he said. "But I think right now for my sanity and my integrity and what I know of myself and the ways -- the visions that I have for my community -- I think I got to take a little bit of a break off Kanye."
Watch the full story on ABC News' "Nightline" Wednesday night at 12:35 a.m. ET.