While Kanye West’s recent string of antisemitic comments have cost his career and wallet dearly, he allegedly used antisemitic language years prior. In documents reviewed by NBC News, West paid a settlement to a former employee, who remained anonymous, claiming that West praised Hitler or Nazis in business meetings on more than one occasion. In the agreement, West denied the claims made by the former employee.
Six people who worked with West – or witnessed him in a professional setting – over the past five years told NBC News that he voiced conspiracy theories about Jewish people and praised Hitler. Three of those people said they remembered an incident in 2018 at the TMZ offices when West went on an antisemitic rant during an interview.
An employee who worked with West for three years said they remember the artist bringing up Hitler on multiple occasions. “I feel like he was just kind of like looking around, like seeing like, how are people reacting?” the former employee said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to multiple nondisclosure agreements. “He would say ‘I even love Hitler’ and then he would like pause for reactions.”
Van Lathan, a former TMZ podcast host and producer, said that during a TMZ Live interview on Oct. 11, 2018 with West, the artist said that he loved Hitler and Nazis. Two former TMZ employees said that a Jewish producer stood up to confront Ye about his antisemitic comments and one of those former employees said that Ye smiled in response. The antisemitic remarks were cut from the published segment.
West has repeatedly made antisemitic comments within the past weeks including in interviews with the Drink Champs podcast, Fox News, and Chris Cuomo. The artist apologized during an interview with Piers Morgan to the “families that I hurt, you know, I really want to give you guys a big hug. And I want to say I’m sorry for hurting you with my comments.” However, West has since gone on a posting spree on Parler, the right-wing social platform he plans to purchase, and included a photo that got him kicked off Instagram. The screen-grab shows a text message conversation with Russell Simmons, who has faced numerous accusations of rape and sexual assault. After Simmons suggested West consider moving overseas to rebuild his empire, West replied, “I’m staying in America. I gotta get the Jewish business people to make the contracts fair. Or die trying.”
Ryder Ripps, who is Jewish, worked with West from 2014 to 2018 as a conceptual artist. Ripps said there were several times when West spoke about Hitler and Nazis in a positive way or mentioned anti-Jewish conspiracies during meetings in 2018. Although Ripps said he pushed back, at the time he thought West’s remarks “didn’t seem that dangerous.”
However, after West’s recent antisemitic comments led to multiple companies dropping him including Balenciaga and Adidas, Ripps said his perspective changed. “With this pattern that’s happening and with the doubling and tripling down of all this, it’s pretty obvious that this is some kind of disgusting, hate-filled, strange Nazi obsession,” said Ripps.