People have said and done a lot of outrageous things on the set of "Larry King Live" over the past 20 years. But the veteran talker said the scene Tuesday night, when his guest walked off the set just minutes after he sat down, was one of the strangest he's ever seen.
Dr. Jan Adams, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Donda West, said he was honoring the wishes of the West family not to discuss the surgery or the possible post-op complications that may have contributed to the death of Kanye West's mother.
"I want to thank you for this opportunity," Adams told King. "Basically, I had come here to talk about things in the press that aren't accurate about me. ... But I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for the West family. They asked me not to go on. And I've said from the very beginning, I don't have a side in this. ... They are my side, and I'm going to respect their wishes. I'm going to apologize to you because I think I'm taking up your airtime, but I will not be on the show and I will not discuss any of that. I'm going to honor their wishes."
A skeptical looking King then asked, "Will you ever answer questions ... Where does this go?" Adams responded, "I will talk with them. When they're comfortable, then I'll be comfortable. If they're never comfortable, then I'll never be comfortable. They are what's important to me."
Trying to salvage the interview, King then prefaced his next question by saying it wasn't about the family and asking, "Don't you want to speak out?"
Removing his earpiece, Adams said simply, "No ... I do not," and then walked off the set. "The whole night was crazy," King said Wednesday morning (November 21) on CNN, noting that Adams' plane was delayed and he was late for the taping to begin with. Once the doctor had arrived, King was told that Adams was speaking to his lawyers in the green room and was not sure if he was going to come on camera or not, even as the taping had already begun with a panel of experts discussing the case while King awaited his guest's arrival.
The Los Angeles Times had published an extensive interview with Adams on Tuesday that may have precipitated the letter. He told the Times that nothing went wrong during the November 9 operation, during which he performed a breast reduction, abdominoplasty (commonly referred to as a "tummy tuck") and liposuction, and speculated about possible causes of her death.
At the beginning of the show, King revealed that Adams had received a letter from West's family warning that if he discussed West's case on the show they would ask the Medical Board of California to decertify him. King said Wednesday that a copy of the one-paragraph letter from the family was faxed to his show prior to Adams' appearance. To add to the bizarre nature of the aborted interview, later in the show, King said that Adams told one of the host's producers that he wanted one of his lawyers to come on camera and speak, but did not want the man identified as being his lawyer. King declined and told the host's of CNN's "American Morning," "I've never had an hour like that."
"To the extent there are issues about even why he's here, why this is in the media, it relates to the relationship he had with his patient," Alan Tenenbaum, one of West's attorneys, told King, according to CNN. "So until he gets clearance from the family, I don't think it would be fair or right for him to talk about these things."
West, 58, died on November 10 after she was found unresponsive and in respiratory distress at her home. Her funeral was held Tuesday in Spencer, Oklahoma.
West "probably [had] a rough night" after the operation, he told the paper, and had complained of pain the very next morning. Asked whether he thought West may have taken too many of the painkillers he'd prescribed her, Adams said, "That's one speculation on my part, yes." It is not known if Adams had received the letter from West's family at the time that he did the interview with the paper, but the Times noted in its story that several hours after the interview, Adams called to stress that he had not been talking about West's case in particular, but about a hypothetical patient facing similar issues. An autopsy on West was inconclusive and toxicology test results are pending.