LOS ANGELES – Kanye West used Jay Leno's prime-time television debut Monday to offer another apology for ruining Taylor Swift's night at the MTV Video Music Awards and to say he's going to take some time off for reflection.
West said he knew he was wrong the moment he handed the microphone back to Swift, when he was bathed in boos. He had interrupted Swift on Sunday night as she accepted a best female video award for "You Belong With Me," arguing that Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" was more deserving.
"It was rude, period," West said. He posted a second apology to Swift on his blog on Monday, and told Leno he wanted to apologize to the country music star in person.
West took a long pause when Leno asked what his mother would have said about the incident. West was very close to his mother, Donda, who died in November 2007. He said yes when Leno asked whether his mother would have given him a lecture.
"So many celebrities, they never take the time off," he said. "I've never taken the time off to really — you know, just music after music and tour after tour. I'm just ashamed that my hurt caused someone else's hurt. My dream of what awards shows are supposed to be, 'cause, and I don't try to justify it because I was just in the wrong. That's period. But I need to, after this, take some time off and just analyze how I'm going to make it through the rest of this life, how I'm going to improve."
He had already been set to perform on Leno's first prime-time show on NBC, but asked for time to talk with the controversy swirling. It may have been a stroke of luck for Leno, whose daily prime-time comedy show already was the most buzzed-about fall debut. With West, it's likely to draw even more curious viewers.
It was reminiscent of when Hugh Grant appeared on the "Tonight" show with Leno in 1995 to make amends after being arrested with a prostitute — only this time there weren't many laughs. The Grant appearance was a springboard for Leno to eclipse David Letterman in the ratings.
Leno was quick to reference the West incident with one of his first monologue jokes Monday, saying President Barack Obama had invited West and the 19-year-old Swift for a "root beer summit."
West has gotten in trouble before with ill-timed comments, raising scenes after losing awards himself at the VMAs, the Grammys and the American Music Awards. In 2005, West said during a telethon to raise money for victims after Hurricane Katrina that President George W. Bush "doesn't care about black people."
MTV wasn't complaining on Monday. Televised on MTV, MTV2 and VH1 simultaneously on Sunday, the awards show was seen by 11 million people, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's up 21 percent over last year and was the most-watched Video Music Awards since 2002.
A corporate partner of MTV jumped to take advantage of it. Comedy Central, like MTV owned by Viacom Inc., planned to rerun four times in a row on Tuesday a "South Park" episode that poked fun at West's ego.
West spoke on Leno's show before performing with Jay-Z and Rihanna on Jay-Z's song "Run This Town."
Some of West's fans who were waiting to see the performance on Leno's show condemned the rapper.
"I thought that was very disrespectful," said Oscar Velasquez, 21, of Valley Village, California. "He's a great musician, but as a person, he's not a role model or anything. And I think that not only are his fans disappointed but his mom would be disappointed. I don't think she raised him like that, to be like that. I think he needs to remember that."
Velasquez said he'd remained a fan of West's after previous awards show blowups, but, "I'm getting kind of tired of it. There comes to a point where you know what? That's how you are, but you can change. And he needs to change."
Errimis Pullett, 27, of San Diego, said he planned to boo West.
He said he'd dismissed West's previous award show tantrums by telling himself, "'Oh, he's kind of misunderstood. He's a little egotistical.' But last night, just jumping in front of Taylor Swift and stealing her moment, that was ridiculous. I can't support or defend that. I'm a huge fan, bought all his CDs. ... I'm glad Beyonce stepped in and let her finish her speech up."
This time, Pullett said, "he looked more like a bully."