LOS ANGELES — Rapper Kanye West isn't known for holding his tongue, but at one point in a meandering interview on TV's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" Thursday, one question brought silence.
Kimmel, a near nightly critic of President Donald Trump, hammered the performer over his support for Trump, whom West once described in a tweet as "my brother."
West complained that liberals, African-Americans and hip-hop colleagues chastised him for being himself and backing the president. He also launched into a diatribe about Galileo being an iconoclast, about how "I’ve never heard of a class that breaks down how you balance a checkbook," and about how people are all "unpaid actors in some giant script that we didn’t write."
But at times, West did focus on Trump.
"When I see people just even like go at the president, it's like, why not try love. ... One by one by one, we can diffuse this nuclear bomb of hate of society by thinking of everyone as our family and how we treat our kids," he said.
West also said having bipolar disorder affects his creativity. Without it — and if his mom medicated him as a child — "I might have never been 'Ye," he said. Because of his condition, he said he spoke as if he had "Tourettes" during a famous TMZ interview last spring, in which he described slavery as "a choice."
But Kimmel pressed the Trump issue more than any other.
" ... In literal terms, there are families being torn apart at the border of this country," Kimmel said. "There are literally families being torn apart as a result of what this president is doing, and I think that we cannot forget that whether we like his personality or not, his actions are really what matter.
"I mean, you’ve so famously and so powerfully said George [W.] Bush doesn’t care about black people. It makes me wonder what makes you think that Donald Trump does — or any people at all?"
Then a camera focused on West, whose gaze, aimed high, became still, and whose arms were folded. No words emerged for a beat or two, and there was nervous laughter from the studio audience. Kimmel rescued the interview by saying, "Why don’t we take a break … " Watch the moment at 11:00 in this YouTube official clip.
On Friday evening the president tweeted his gratitude for the supportive words that did come out of West's mouth during the interview.
"Thank you to Kanye West and the fact that he is willing to tell the TRUTH," he stated. "One new and great FACT - African American unemployment is the lowest ever recorded in the history of our Country. So honored by this. Thank you Kanye for your support. It is making a big difference!"
Trump has often taken credit for an African-American unemployment rate that has been declining since the administration of President Barack Obama, who helped to cut the figure in half.
Back on the show, Kimmel ultimately nixed talk of Trump by changing the subject to the fashion choices West has made for his children. But soon the rapper, who recently released the album, "Ye," returned to wandering remarks in which he spoke about murder, a topic of one of the new album's tracks, and suicide.
"People are so afraid to face what we're actually dealing with," West said. " ... We want to put a patina on it and not face it."
"I've thought about a tombstone that said, 'Are you happy now?'" West continued.
"It's funny but not funny," Kimmel said. " ... When you have thoughts like that you have to be careful and talk to people."
It was the first "Jimmy Kimmel Live" appearance for West since 2013 when the two settled a beef over the host's airing of a video that made fun of the rapper.