While an attorney for the Floyd family said that a defamation lawsuit may not be possible, he said the family could press Kanye West for other damages.
The family of George Floyd, an African-American man murdered by Minneapolis police officers, has indicated they might take legal action against controversial rap artist Kanye West.
According to CNN, West—who recently changed his name to “Ye”—discussed Floyd’s death on a recent episode of the “Drink Champs” podcast.
On the podcast, West suggested that Floyd died from fentanyl abuse rather than police misconduct.
“I watched the George Floyd documentary that Candace Owens put out. One of the things that his two roommates said was they want a tall guy like me, and the day that he died, he said a prayer for eight minutes,” West said. “They hit him with the fentanyl. If you look, the guy’s knee wasn’t even on his neck like that.”
However, the medical examiner who inspected Floyd’s body ruled that the middle-aged Black man most likely died because then-Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin had driven his knee into Floyd’s neck.
In his report, the examiner found that Floyd’s cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest” that occurred during the “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker did say that Floyd’s fentanyl abuse and pre-existing heart disease did like contribute to his death, but were not the direct cause.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt—among several lawyers who represented the Floyd family—said that his clients are considering filing a lawsuit against West.
“While one cannot defame the dead, the family of #GeorgeFloyd is considering suit for Kanye’s false statements about the manner of his death,” Merritt wrote on Twitter. “Claiming Floyd died from fentanyl not the brutality established criminally and civilly undermines & diminishes the Floyd family’s fight.”
Merritt told CNN that he found out about West’s comments from Floyd’s surviving brother, Philonise Floyd.
Philonise, said Merritt, indicated that he wished to pursue a defamation claim.
According to Merritt, West probably cannot be sued for defamation, since George Floyd is no longer alive.
However, the attorney suggested that the family could likely petition the court for other legal remedies.
The family could, for instance, seek damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“I have put together a working team to investigate [West’s] statements and to investigate the source of those statements,” Merritt said.
Drink Champs host N.O.R.E. has since issued an apology, saying that, while he supports West’s rights to free speech, the rapper should have exercised restraint.
“I just want to be honest. I support freedom of speech. I support anybody, you know, not being censored,” N.O.R.E. 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.”
“I apologize to the George Floyd family,” N.O.R.E. said. “I apologize to anybody that was hurt by Kanye West’s comments.”