George Floyd’s family is considering suing Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, for making false claims about Floyd’s death, a prominent civil rights lawyer said.
In a recent appearance on the hip-hop podcast Drink Champs, the rapper and fashion designer questioned the cause of Floyd’s death, suggesting it was due to fentanyl use and not by Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9½ minutes and was convicted of murder.
Chauvin’s knee “wasn’t even on his neck like that,” Ye said. The interview had been viewed nearly 2 million times on YouTube as of Monday afternoon.
Ye said his claims were backed by a documentary by conservative commentator Candace Owens.
His remarks drew widespread condemnation, including from civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, who tweeted Sunday: “While one cannot defame the dead, the family of #GeorgeFloyd is considering suit for Kanye’s false statements about the manner of his death. Claiming Floyd died from fentanyl not the brutality established criminally and civilly undermines & diminishes the Floyd family’s fight.”
Merritt said Monday that he had been contacted Sunday by Floyd’s brother, Philonise, about whether legal action can be taken to prevent Ye from repeating debunked claims about Floyd’s death. Merritt said he is also looking into whether Owens can be sued on similar grounds as well.
Ye, who has courted controversy in recent weeks, was blocked from posting on Twitter and Instagram about a week ago over antisemitic posts that the social networks said violated their policies. In one tweet, Ye said he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” according to internet archive records, making an apparent reference to the U.S. defense readiness condition scale known as DEFCON. This month, Ye, who once suggested slavery was a choice, was criticized for wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt, alongside Owens, to his collection at Paris Fashion Week. The Anti-Defamation League has called the phrase hate speech.
Many criticized Drink Champs and its hosts, rapper N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, on social media, for giving a platform to Ye’s racist talking points that denied the brutality Floyd was subjected to and the excessive force Black people experience in some encounters with police.
During a call-in interview Monday with The Breakfast Club, a nationally syndicated radio show, N.O.R.E. apologized to Floyd’s family and said that Drink Champs will edit future broadcasts.
“I just want to be honest. I support freedom of speech. I support anybody, you know, not being censored,” he said. “But I do not support anybody being hurt. I did not realize that the George Floyd statements on my show was so hurtful. And you got to realize, it was the first five minutes of the show. Like when he walked in, he told my producer, he said that if he’ll stop filming, he’ll walk out.”
N.O.R.E. also said he “checked” Ye over his comments about Floyd and White Lives Matter, but said it was so late in the episode and “I was already inebriated at that time that maybe people looked over it.”
“I apologize to the George Floyd family,” he said. “I apologize to anybody that was hurt by Kanye West’s comments.”