Lawyers representing the families of those who died at last month’s Astroworld festival have hit out at an interview given by Travis Scott late last week, with one dubbing it “an hour-long exercise in classic gaslighting”.
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured after a crowd surge occurred during Scott’s headline set at the festival he founded. A criminal investigation is underway into what caused the tragedy, while the rapper and the festival’s promoters Live Nation and Scoremore are facing hundreds of lawsuits in relation to the incident.
Scott’s first interview about the tragedy appeared on Charlamagne Tha God’s YouTube channel last week. In it, he basically echoed comments previously made by his lawyer, stressing that he was not aware of what was happening on the ground as he performed his Astroworld set, with the lights, pyros and in-ear monitors employed during the show making it impossible for him to see or hear anything happening off-stage.
He added that he only became aware of what had happened after he had finished his performance, shortly before a press conference. “I didn’t know the exact details until minutes before the press conference”, he said. “And even at that moment you’re like, ‘Wait, what?’ People pass out, things happen at concerts, but something like that…”
Charlamagne noted how some Astroworld attendees have said they could hear groups of people shouting for help whenever Scott paused between songs. But, the rapper said, he never heard those calls for help. “Anytime you can hear something like that, you want to stop the show”, he added. “You want to make sure fans get the proper attention they need”.
He stressed that he did actually stop his Astroworld performance on a couple of occasions when he did become aware of specific incidents. However, he went on, as an artist you have to rely on a show’s promoters when it comes to identifying issues in the crowd. “You can only help what you can see and whatever you’re told’, he said, “whenever they tell you to stop, you stop”.
The interview also touched on claims that Scott has a history of encouraging reckless behaviour – or “raging” – at his shows, which some have argued made a tragedy like that which occurred last month much more likely to happen.
“That’s something I’ve been working on for a while, just creating these experiences and trying to show these experiences are happening in a safe environment”, he went on. “Us as artists, we trust professionals for when things happen, that people can leave safely”.
Asked by Charlamagne why he had agreed to do the interview, Scott said that he just needed “a way to communicate” following last month’s events. However, lawyers working for the families of those who died at the festival have claimed that the YouTube conversation was more about shirking the blame and protecting the rapper’s brand.
Attorney James Lassiter told reporters that the interview was “an hour-long exercise in classic gaslighting” of victims, their families and the community. He went on: “Gaslighting is a form of manipulation seen in abusive relationships where it’s an attempt to manipulate the facts so that the victims begin to question their own experiences of reality. That’s what was going on there”.
Noting Scott’s reputation for encouraging “raging”, Lassiter added: “For him to act surprised that people got hurt and even killed at his show is perplexing. It won’t work on a Harris County jury who hears all the facts, because the fact is Travis Scott has an abusive relationship with his fans and he’s used that to build his fame and fortune, risking people’s lives and their livelihood”.
Another lawyer representing Astroworld victims, Tony Buzbee, was similarly disparaging about the interview. “We’re taught as kids, when you make a mistake, the best thing you can do is admit it and take responsibility”, he told ABC 13. “Travis Scott has not done that. [He] made no effort to. In fact, in [50 plus] minutes, he didn’t even say ‘I’m sorry’. Every time he tries to shift blame, every time he makes excuses, he just adds to the pain of the families that have lost loved ones”.
Scott’s legal team have begun formally responding to the flood of lawsuits filed in relation to the festival, mainly seeking to get their client removed as a defendant, on the basis crowd safety at the event was not his responsibility.
In related news, another of Scott’s brand partners has paused their collaboration with the star in the wake of the Astroworld tragedy. The Cacti hard seltzer drink that the rapper launched in partnership with Anheuser-Busch earlier this year has been discontinued.
A spokesperson for Scott said the partnership was due to end on 30 Nov anyway, and that he had decided not to continue the collaboration.
Noting the YouTube conversation, the spokesperson said: “Travis was clear in his interview that he is not focused on business right now and his priority is helping his community and fans heal. Cacti asked AB Inbev to inform their wholesalers there will not be product at this time”.
Scott has also reportedly been removed from the line-up for next year’s Coachella festival, though sources say that wasn’t at the rapper’s request. In fact, according to insiders who spoke to Variety, Scott was allegedly interested in using the festival appearance as his first on-stage performance following the Astroworld tragedy.
However, reports say, Coachella’s promoter – AEG’s Goldenvoice – was seemingly unhappy with the idea of Scott headlining its 2022 edition, its first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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