Few people have come to Kanye West’s defense after he lost his lucrative deal with Adidas for making anti-Semitic comments. One person who has defended the rapper is Candace Owens, a staunch Republican activist and pro-Trump supporter. Indeed, last week, Owens said on Twitter that she had received threats for supporting West’s comments.
Candace Owens on Kanye West's antisemitic tweet: "If you are an honest person, you did not think this tweet was antisemitic," adding "It's like you cannot even say the word 'Jewish' without people getting upset" pic.twitter.com/tXYOWfI9UE— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) October 10, 2022
West – who changed his name to Ye – and Owens have a close relationship. The two were spotted at West’s Yeezy fashion show in Paris, where they both wore the now-infamous T-shirts with the message: “White Lives Matter.” Indeed, the fact that Owens was at the show signalled that there was no irony behind the slogan. “It didn’t land and it was deeply offensive, violent and dangerous,” Vogue contributing editor Gabriella Karefah Johnson said in an Instagram story following the event.
Days later, after attacking Karefah Johnson and other critics on social media, West went with Owens to the premiere of her documentary The Greatest Lie Ever Sold: George Floyd and the Rise of BLM, in reference to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The anti-racist movement began in 2013 following the police murder of Trayvon Martin, and reignited after George Floyd was killed by police officers in 2020. Owens, however, argues that it was based on a narrative that has “made millions of dollars profiting from the chaos of the protests,” as claimed in the film synopsis.
Owens has become a prominent conservative pundit by pushing these unfounded views, which, unfortunately, have found many supporters. Back in 2015, she founded a blog called Degree180, which promoted some of Trump’s ideas. But at that point, she wasn’t actively attacking BLM. It wasn’t until 2017, when she created the YouTube channel Red Pill Black, that she started accusing the movement of “brainwashing” Black Americans. In her videos, Owens claims that police brutality isn’t a problem and accuses BLM of profiteering from racial justice protests.
This position has won her many fans among the far-right wing of the Republican Party: having a Black woman as an outspoken supporter has helped the party deflect accusations that it is racist. And Owens has been more than happy to rally for the Republicans. On the conservative show The Rubin Report, Owens told host Dave Rubin: “I just thought I had to be a democrat and a liberal.” As Dazed magazine explains: “This is an argument frequently used by Owens and West: that because of their skin color, they were made to believe, by liberals, that they could not be conservative. This encompasses Owens’ general argument against the Democratic Party: that they brainwash Black Americans.”
In April 2018, a few months after she launched her YouTube channel, which now has over one million subscribers, Kanye tweeted: “I love the way Candace Owens thinks.” A month later, Kanye and Owens visited TMZ headquarters together. It was during that visit that West said slavery was a choice. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” he said.
That same year, Owens founded the Blexit Foundation, a reference to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, commonly known as Brexit. The organization is aimed at luring Black Americans away from the Democratic Party. Owens claimed that Kanye designed the merchandising for Blexit, but he denied this, saying he introduced her “to the person who made the logo.” “I never wanted any association with Blexit,” he said in a message on Twitter.
When George Floyd’s death in 2020 reignited the Black Lives Matter protests, Owens called on the Black community to donate to Blexit, rather than BLM, saying the money would go towards repairing the damage caused by the street unrest. She raised more than $7 million, but according to The Daily Beast, most of this money has been “flowing to top execs.” Meanwhile, Floyd’s family have sued West for $250 million after the rapper claimed that the 46-year-old died from a fentanyl overdose rather than being murdered by a white police officer.
But West is not Owens’ only celebrity friend. A few days ago, the British singer M.I.A., whose real name is Maya Arulpragasam, shared a photo of herself with Owens on Twitter. In the accompanying message, M.I.A. wrote: “Here’s a scary photo for Halloween,” and included the hashtag #freedomofexpression – another slogan that has been co-opted by the far right. Like Owens, M.I.A. is an antivaxxer who has spread conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic. The rapper has also made controversial statements regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. In an interview with the Evening Standard, she asked: “Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter?”
Owens is no friend of pop star Harry Styles, who she attacked for wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue, or of rapper Cardi B., who supports US President Joe Biden. But she does have the support of celebrities such as Kid Rock, Ray J and Joy Villa, who wore a dress in support of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign at the 2020 Grammy Awards (it was the third time she wore a pro-Trump gown on the red carpet).
Ahead of the high-stakes midterm elections on Tuesday, Owens has been rallying for the Republican Party on her YouTube channel. A lot is riding on the results of the poll, which are the first to be held after the January 6 assault on the US Capitol. Many candidates in the Republican Party falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen and also advocate for tougher restrictions on abortion. Meanwhile, West has been seen wearing a cap with the slogan “2024,” hinting he may once again run for president after his failed attempt in 2020. While the antics of the rapper and his conservative friend may just seem like harmless tabloid fodder, what they say reaches millions of people, and could have serious consequences.