R&B singer Erykah Badu, who hasn't put out a record since 2010, was trending Wednesday and not in a good way: She suggested in an interview that maybe Hitler wasn't all bad, in part because he was a "wonderful painter."
She said this in a long interview with Vulture published Wednesday, in which she talked about many subjects, including her 2008 visit to Israel where she said she supported the Palestinian cause and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, despite his alleged anti-Semitism.
"I’m OK with anything I had to say about Louis Farrakhan," she told her interlocutor, David Marchese. "But I’m not an anti-Semitic person. I don’t even know what anti-Semitic was before I was called it. I’m a humanist. I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler."
Apparently stupified, Marchese responded: "Come again?"
"Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter," Badu said.
"No, he wasn't!" Marchese snapped back. Even if he were, he said, what does that have to do with whether there's any "good" in him?
Then Badu, 46, went off on a convoluted explanation of her views, which suggested that since Hitler supposedly had a terrible childhood, she could empathize with an abused child. "I guess it’s just the Pisces in me," she said.
Marchese said "going down the route of 'Hitler was a child once, too' is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction."
"Maybe so," Badu said. "It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes."
No, indeed, as the reaction on Twitter suggested.
Badu responded later with a series of tweets, in which she declared, "Say what u must. Dialogue is cool."
But before that, the pushback ranged from polite to profane to incredulous.
"To Holocaust survivors and their ancestors, it’s a kick in the teeth and an unnecessarily offensive thing to say," tweeted Joshua Zitser.
"Erykah Badu, nooooooo! (Erykah and I went to college together, and I’m just floored by this interview)," tweeted Charles M. Blow, the New York Times' politics-and-social-justice opinion columnist.
Some people couldn't decide how to respond. "I don't know what to do or say about erykah anymore," said Xavier D'Leau
Badu also had some sympathetic words for Bill Cosby, and nevermind the dozens of allegations that he drugged and/or raped women going back to the mid-1960s.
"I love Bill Cosby," she said. "I love what he’s done for the world. But if he’s sick, why would I be angry with him? The people who got hurt, I feel so bad for them. I want them to feel better, too. But sick people do evil things; hurt people hurt people. I know I could be crucified for saying that..."
Cue the mouths dropping open.
"This is a fascinating, infuriating interview where Erykah Badu talks about seeing the humanity in Bill Cosby and...Hitler (my jaw is currently on the floor)," tweeted Ashley Weatherford, a beauty editor for The Cut, New York magazine's style column.
Badu, famous for her eccentric hats and headgear, has long been known to operate on her own wavelength.
She said her way of thinking might stem from her astrological sign, Pisces, and "a cognitive-dissonance reality" we all live in, plus the "hive mentality."
"We want to live a certain way or do a certain thing, and we don’t because we are emotionally attached to how the group thinks," she said. "The hive mentality takes over. But you know what’s right in your mind and your heart, and if you’re strong enough to detach from the hive then sometimes, just sometimes, you may be able to do the right thing."
Marchese moved on with the interview, apparently arranged in connection with the reissue of her debut album, 1997's Baduizm, tentatively slated for return as a set of vinyl 45s in February.
"Why why why did I click to see why Erykah Badu was trending???" tweet-moaned MSNBC's Joy Reid.