COLUMBIA, S.C. – Self-declared presidential candidate Kanye West delivered a winding and unconventional campaign introduction speech in which he proposed a $1 million payout to each new mother and decried Harriet Tubman for her work on the Underground Railroad.
But whether the rapper and fashion designer is actually seeking the nation's highest office remains a question.
West said Sunday before a crowd of several hundred in North Charleston, South Carolina, that Tubman "never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people,” comments that drew shouts of opposition from some in the crowd.
Tubman, among the most respected figures in American history, escaped slavery, helped enslaved Black men and women travel north to freedom on the Underground Railroad and fought for the Union during the Civil War. She later became a supporter of women’s suffrage.
Despite Sunday's event, West failed to qualify as a candidate for the South Carolina ballot. According to State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire, neither West nor a campaign representative handed in 10,000 signatures by noon Monday, as required by state law to appear as a petition candidate.
“There was no petition at all,” Whitmire said, of any correspondence from the campaign.
Emails to an address purportedly for West's campaign were not returned as of Monday afternoon.
West missed the deadline to qualify for the ballot in several other states, as well, and it was unclear if he was willing or able to collect enough signatures required to qualify in others. Last week, he qualified to appear on Oklahoma’s presidential ballot, the first state where he met the requirements before the filing deadline.
The entertainer, who is married to reality television star Kim Kardashian West, initially announced his candidacy on July 4. He said he is no longer a supporter of President Donald Trump's.
Wearing a protective vest and with “2020” shaved into his head, West on Sunday said that while he believes abortion should be legal, financial incentives to help struggling mothers could help discourage the practice, saying that his own father had wanted to abort him.
“Everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars,” he said as an example, adding, “I don’t have the funding for it. But I have the platform to share the idea."
Speaking without a microphone, West became tearful at one point while talking about his mother, who died following plastic surgery complications in 2007. He also decried the lack of minority representation on corporate boards and in sports team ownership, threatening to end his deal with Adidas and Gap if not named to their corporate boards.
“Risk or no risk of losing whatever deal possible, I am not on the board at Adidas,” West said. “I am not on the board at Gap. And that has to change today, or I walk away.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP