George Graham

There’s Something Fishy About That Kanye West Outburst

Yes, President Obama, Kanye West is very likely a jackass. But I think he put one over on you. By joining the “outrage” over West’s stage stealing “outburst” at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards you played right into his publicity-seeking hands. Call me a suspicious old curmudgeon – you won’t be the first to do that – but the whole episode smells fishy to me. I bet it’s the product of some PR genius’s fertile imagination.

sophiaYou don’t believe me? You may be too young to recall the promotional tricks of yesteryear, but you must have heard of Jayne Mansfield. She grabbed the headlines with such stunts as “losing” her bikini at a Jane Russell movie premier and gatecrashing Sophia Loren’s welcoming party for the Romanoffs. And she gave the paparazzi of her day a treat by upstaging Loren’s famous… figure (photo at right).

And  what about Harry Houdini? Does that name ring a bell? The escape artist who had himself strapped into a straitjacket and suspended by his ankles from a New York skyscraper – among a host of death defying public feats?

You would think that Americans would recognize a publicity stunt by now. Over the years, headline seekers have gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel, walked on a tightrope between the World Trade Towers, roamed the streets dressed as cartoon characters, tossed money from the observation platform of the Empire State Building… There couldn’t be many zany promotional ideas that haven’t been tried.

westAnd when Kanye West grabbed the microphone from Taylor Swift (photo at right) as she was accepting her award and said something to the effect that the winner should have been Beyonce, everyone should have known it was a shameless publicity ploy. If you didn’t catch on right away, the rest of the little Kabuki play should’ve given it away.

Swift appeared discombobulated and cut short her acceptance speech. But “gracious” Beyonce provided a pat happy ending by inviting Swift to the stage later on.

Look, I am a writer of sorts and I can recognize a script when I see one. As scripts go, I didn’t rate that one very high. It was too contrived. But did it ever work! West’s bad-boy act has grabbed the headlines for days and is getting equal play on the “news” channels with the “you lie” insult Congressman Joe Wilson shouted at President Obama.

I doubt that MTV’s video awards would’ve made the regular news without West’s “outburst,” and people like me might never even have known there were “celebrities” named Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Beyonce. (I imagine they are entertainers of one kind or another.)

To keep the headlines coming, West has appeared on various TV shows to “apologize,” but I am sure he never expected to get such a boost from the President. Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s AP “news” story:

NEW YORK – President Barack Obama’s candid thoughts about Kanye West are provoking a debate over standards of journalism in the Twitter age. ABC News says it was wrong for its employees to tweet that Obama had called West a “jackass” for the rapper’s treatment of country singer Taylor Swift. The network said some of its employees had overheard a conversation between the president and CNBC’s John Harwood and didn’t realize it was considered off the record. The network apologized to the White House and CNBC.

During what sounds like informal banter before the interview begins, Obama is asked whether his daughters were annoyed by West’s hijacking of Swift’s acceptance statement, according to an audio copy that was posted on

“I thought that was really inappropriate,” Obama says. “What are you butting in (for)? … The young lady seems like a perfectly nice person. She’s getting her award. What’s he doing up there?”

A questioner chimes in, “Why would he do it?”

“He’s a jackass,” Obama replies, which is met with laughter from several people.

Hey, stop the presses!  Who cares whether the world teeters on the brink of nuclear warfare, not to mention economic disaster? Dump that story about the trade war between the U.S. and China. In today’s news, all the world’s a stage, and the players who put on the most popular show are the ones who get the spotlight. Give the people what they want: bread and circuses – and if you can’t produce the bread, ramp up the circuses.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for