Rapper Kanye West has officially launched his US presidential bid in an unorthodox rally in which he ranted about historical figure Harriet Tubman and broke down over abortion.
The event, which took place in North Charleston in South Carolina, was West”s first campaign event since declaring earlier this month that he would be contesting the presidential election in November 2020 against Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
West delivered a lengthy monologue to the crowd in which he appeared to be making policy announcements off the cuff, touching on topics from abortion and religion to international trade and licensing deals.
Whether he is actually seeking the US’ highest political office remains a question.
West used part of his speech to criticise Harriet Tubman, one of the most respected figures of 19th century America. An African American who escaped slavery, she helped enslaved Black men and women travel north to freedom and fought for the Union during the Civil War. She later became a supporter of women’s suffrage.
Despite Tubman’s work for what was known as the “Underground Railroad,” West claimed she “never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people.”
On abortion, West said that while he believes it should be legal, financial incentives to help struggling mothers could be a way to discourage the practice.
“Everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars,” he said as an example.
Wearing a protective vest emblazoned with “security” and with “2020” shaved into his head, the entertainer appeared on a livestream of the event. Several hundred people gathered in a venue, where gospel music played before West’s appearance.
The event was reportedly for registered guests only, although a campaign website had no registration or RSVP information.
Speaking without a microphone, West became tearful at one point while talking about his mother, who died following plastic surgery complications in 2007.
In an interview with Forbes magazine on Wednesday, West claimed to be “God’s candidate” for the White House, stating he no longer supported Donald Trump.
West missed the deadline to qualify for the ballot in several states, 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.
West needed to collect 10,000 signatures by noon on Monday to appear on the South Carolina ballot, according to state law. The entertainer tweeted out a list of locations around the Charleston area where petitions could be signed.
West, who is married to reality television star Kim Kardashian West, initially announced his candidacy for the presidency on July 4.