Kanye West’s false claim about George Floyd’s death may spark lawsuit
“While one cannot defame the dead, the family of #GeorgeFloyd is considering suit for Kanye’s false statements about the manner of his death,” civil rights attorney Lee Merritt tweeted Sunday.
“Claiming Floyd died from fentanyl not the brutality established criminally and civilly undermines & diminishes the Floyd family’s fight,” Merritt said, as many on social media condemned West’s latest offensive remarks.
The backlash to Ye’s comments came as right-wing social media platform Parler announced he was buying the company, days after Instagram and Twitter removed antisemitic posts by the rapper.
Of Floyd’s death, Ye said, “They hit him with the fentanyl. If you look, the guy’s knee wasn’t even on his neck like that,” speaking to the weekly podcast Drink Champs on Saturday, referring to claims he said he saw in a documentary.
Footage taken of Floyd’s final moments in May 2020 show the 46-year-old pinned to the ground in handcuffs as White police officer Derek Chauvin kneels on his neck for more than nine minutes.
“I can’t breathe,” Floyd cried out before he died — sparking global outcry and a movement that forced the United States and other nations to confront their histories of police brutality and racism.
Last year, Chauvin was sentenced to 22½ years in prison for Floyd’s murder. Three other officers who were at the scene were given federal prison sentences this year for violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Autopsies showed that Floyd had a large amount of fentanyl and a small amount of methamphetamine and THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — in his system before he died.
Chauvin’s defense sought to blame Floyd’s drug use for his death, but medical experts and witnesses testified that Floyd was the victim of a homicide — not an overdose.
Two autopsies — one by a county medical examiner and another by a private medical examiner hired by the Floyd family concluded that Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest, a result of compressions to his neck and chest.
Ye’s comments were swiftly rebuked online, where many criticized him for echoing the fentanyl claim that once served as a line of Chauvin’s defense.
“The Floyd family should sue Kanye just like Sandy Hook families sued Alex Jones,” read one tweet referencing a recent defamation verdict that ordered the Infowars founder to pay nearly $1 billion to relatives of victims of the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Jones has for years spread the false claim that the attack was staged, and he relentlessly accused family members of being “crisis actors,” giving them grounds to sue for reputational damage. Relatives testified throughout his trial that the claims also led to harassment and threats by conspiracy theorists.
Organizers of the podcast, amid the backlash, urged people to listen to the full episode of their sit-down with the rapper.
“We know #BlackLivesMatter & Ye does as well!” read a tweet from the podcast’s Twitter account. “Our conversation with our brother @kanyewest is 3+ hours!”
Lenny Bernstein, Joanna Slater and Holly Bailey contributed to this report.