It was "The Jay Leno Show's" big prime-time debut, but Kanye West unquestionably stole some of the spotlight from the host to announce he'll be taking time off to reflect on his actions after his controversial outburst over the weekend at the MTV Video Music Awards.
One day after the famously outspoken artist interrupted an acceptance speech from 19-year-old country star Taylor Swift at the award show, suggesting that her prize for best female video should have gone to Beyonce, a contrite West appeared on Leno's new NBC show to deliver an apology. (He was also there to support Jay-Z, who performed his single "Run This Town," which features West and Rihanna.)
"It was rude, period," West, dressed in black, told Leno on Monday. "I don't try to justify it 'cause I was in the wrong."
He added that he would take time off to analyze how he's "going to improve."
West, of course, has a reputation for speaking his mind: In 2005, he declared during a televised benefit to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina that "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Perhaps surprisingly, it seems the incident with Swift has generated more controversy than that statement.
Prior to the "Jay Leno Show" appearance, West had posted two apologies on his website. The first, in which he also tried to explain his actions, was removed and replaced with a more succinct apology.
"That was Taylor's moment and I had no right in any way to take it from her," West wrote.
Calls requesting comment from West and Swift were not returned.
On Monday, celebrities reacting to the incident were unanimous in their support of Swift. Katy Perry posted on her Twitter account that it was like West had "stepped on a kitten." A Kelly Clarkson blog post offered a scathing takedown of West, with the "American Idol" winner writing "you just keep amazing me with tactless . . . ways." Speaking on "Today," Pink said of West, "I just think he's an idiot. He's just a waste."
Also, ABC reporter Terry Moran wrote on Twitter that he overheard President Obama refer to West as a "jackass" during a Monday interview with CNBC, but it was apparently off the record, and ABC removed the post and issued an apology to CNBC and the White House.
Swift was scheduled to appear on ABC's morning talk show "The View" today.
MTV has become adept at walking the line between fiction and reality in its award shows. When Sacha Baron Cohen's flamboyantly gay Bruno character crash-landed on the face of rap star Eminem at the MTV Movie Awards in May, the media had a field day debating whether the stunt was real, all while MTV was silent for more than 24 hours.
The network did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday's incident, but reported on its website that West had been asked to leave the Radio City Music Hall after the interruption. Brian Philips, the president of MTV's sister station Country Music Television, said that he has never seen an "intruder" interrupt an acceptance speech, adding, "I hope not to see it again."
Swift was the biggest-selling pop artist of 2008. Her sophomore album, "Fearless," has sold 3.8 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Last week, she announced the album would be re-released Oct. 27 with six new songs.
With a squeaky-clean professional image, Swift stands in stark contrast to the outspoken West, who also stage-bombed the 2006 MTV Europe Awards and declared, "If I don't win, the awards show loses credibility."
Despite the latest controversy, Best Buy senior music merchant Chris Smith believes West's fans won't abandon him.
"Quite honestly, it could end up helping his cause," Smith said. "He has been so pop-leaning of late and appealed to a wider, greater crossover audience. There may be a fear out there that he lost his edge, his street cred. This may have been a way to gain that back, to show that he still has an edge."
Ratings for the VMAs averaged 9 million people, the ceremony's largest audience since 2004, according to Nielsen Media Research.