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R. Kelly's 'CBS This Morning' interview was disgusting — but we couldn't look away

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R. Kelly gave an emotional and explosive talk, defending his innocence in his first interview since being charged with sexual abuse.
USA TODAY

If there was any question about the kind of person R. Kelly is versus the man he claims to be, viewers got a full display of his delusions during his interview with Gayle King on Wednesday’s “CBS This Morning.”

This was the interview that followers of the R. Kelly case had long been waiting for, with Wednesday’s sit-down marking the first time the singer has addressed the claims against him since the premiere of Lifetime’s explosive “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary and the singer’s subsequent arrest on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Kelly’s showing was about as despicable as they come, giving viewers a glimpse inside the narcissism-crazed mind of a man that, despite the overwhelming evidence against him and scores of credible accounts of his abuses, has never been convicted of a crime and truly seems to internalize that he did nothing wrong. 

And through it all, Kelly delivered several minutes of can’t-look-away television that reminded viewers, particularly ones who’d been fans of his in the past, of his transfixing powers as a performer.

Kelly didn’t just plead innocent. He delivered drama. He served up emotion. He mugged to the cameras in a gross display of showmanship, asking King which shot was fixed on him.

“Is this my camera?” he asked King mid-rant, before turning and addressing viewers directly, asking them to “use your common sense” while also claiming that the charges against him are all one big conspiracy.

Any viewer with common sense probably shook their head when Kelly argued that he was immune to scrutiny over his past alleged crimes, “because, for one, I beat my case, and when you beat it you beat it.”

“You can’t double-jeopardy me like that, it’s not fair,” he said, displaying both a total misunderstanding of the law and a chilling lack of empathy for the women who maintain that Kelly’s past crimes almost ruined their lives. As he elaborated in the interview, he sees his alleged victims as either jealous exes or money-hungry grifters, against whom he’s “fighting for my life” as the sole victim of this saga.  

The interview soon devolved into a full-blown temper tantrum, as Kelly stood, gesticulated, screamed and cried, while King sat still and calm, a reminder of who the real adult in the room was. In a play for viewers’ sympathies, Kelly invoked his family, yelling how he just wanted to see his kids — a disingenuous statement, considering his daughter Joann, who changed her name to Buku Abi to distance herself from the Kelly name, recently shared that she and her siblings haven’t spoken to their “monster” father in “years.” 

The interview: R. Kelly screams and cries as he claims he’s innocent

The reaction: Gayle King praised on Twitter for keeping calm

 

Perhaps Kelly hoped his waterworks would bring the interview to a close, as did a similar fit on HuffPost Live during one of his most recent on-camera appearances in 2015. But the interview continued, only for Kelly to reveal his shocking response to the parents of Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage, who have waged a public battle with Kelly claiming he brainwashed their daughters and are isolating them from their families.

 

This part of the interview played out almost like a scene from one of his “Trapped in the Closet” installments, as he spun together quotable lines — “There are older men that like younger women, there are younger women who like older men, I’m just an older man who likes all women” — with storylines about how the Clary and Savage families  “sold” their daughters to him by bringing them to his concerts and begging him to have sex with them before revolting after he stopped paying them money.

Kelly knows the entertainment value in telling these kinds of wild-sounding stories, that they’re part of his appeal as much as his heartfelt pleas for innocence. That’s why so many fans fell in love with Kelly in the first place, for the theatrics, for his oversized personality that balanced the more lascivious elements of his persona — the “Bump ‘N Grind” R. Kelly — with his sincere and emotional side, the “I Believe I Can Fly” R. Kelly. 

But, after 20 years of Kelly using these same tactics to mislead fans and redirect attention away from his alleged crimes, reality has finally caught up with him. Kelly had an opportunity during Wednesday morning’s interview to show at least some remorse for the pain he’s caused his victims. Instead, viewers just got the same song and dance, and it’s never been more disgusting to watch than it is now. 

The art vs. the artist: Reckoning with favorite musicians’ #MeToo allegations

 

More: How shows like HBO’s Michael Jackson documentary, ‘Leaving Neverland,’ are actually changing minds

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  • R. Kelly surrenders to authorities at Chicago First District police station, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019.  RB star R. Kelly was taken into custody after arriving Friday night at a Chicago police precinct, hours after authorities announced multiple charges of aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17.1 of 23
  • In this photo taken and released by the Chicago Police Dept., Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, RB singer R. Kelly is photographed during booking at a police station in Chicago, Il. R. Kelly, the RB star who has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves, is due in court Saturday after being charged with aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17.2 of 23
  • R. Kelly accepts the Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Male Entertainer of the Year at the 13th annual Soul Train Music Awards in Los Angeles on March 26,1999. 3 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs during the TV show Wetten dass..? in Erfurt, Germany, on Oct. 13, 2001.4 of 23
  • R. Kelly is escorted from a Chicago court  June 26, 2002, after entering a plea of innocent to child pornography charges.   Kelly is accused of appearing on a videotape that prosecutors say shows him sexually involved with an underage girl.  5 of 23
  • Police officials surround R. Kelly as he arrives at a Chicago court for an appearance on Aug. 7, 2002.  Kelly, a Chicago-area resident, is accused of appearing on a videotape that prosecutors say shows him sexually involved with an underage girl. Kelly has said the man on the tape is not him. 6 of 23
  • R. Kelly looks at Polk County Judge Karla Wright during his court appearance on June 6, 2002, in Bartow, Fla.  Kelly was arrested in Davenport, Fla., and charged with 21 counts of child pornography. 7 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs Saved Me at the Soul Train Music Awards on March 20, 2004, in Los Angeles.8 of 23
  • R. Kelly, right, and Jay-Z perform at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. at the first stop in their Best of Both Worlds Tour, on Sept. 30, 2004. 9 of 23
  • R. Kelly, right, acknowledges  the crowd as BMI President and CEO Del Bryant applauds after Kelly received a 2005 BMI Urban Music Award on Aug. 26, 2005, in Miami Beach, Fla. Kelly received several awards including a BMI Crystal as Urban Songwriter of the Year. He was also named one of BMI's top songwriter/producers. 10 of 23
  • R. Kelly sings the Nation Anthem before the Jermain Taylor-Bernard Hopkins undisputed world middleweight championship bout on Dec. 3, 2005, in Las Vegas. 11 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs at New York's Radio City Music Hall as part of his Light It Up Tour, on April 18, 2006. 12 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Nov. 15, 2007. 13 of 23
  • R. Kelly, center, leaves Cook County courthouse following his child pornography hearing on Dec. 20, 2007, in Chicago. 14 of 23
  • R. Kelly enters the Cook County Criminal Court Building on May 28, 2008, in Chicago as his child pornography trial continues.15 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs in Uganda's capital city Kampala organized by Zain Uganda , on Jan. 29, 2010.16 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs onstage during R. Kelly, New Edition and The Jacksons at the 2013 BET Experience at Staples Center June 30, 2013 in Los Angeles.17 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs at the BET Awards in Los Angeles on June 30, 2013.18 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs onstage during the 56th annual Grammy Awards Pre-Grammy Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Lucian Grainge at The Beverly Hilton on Jan. 25, 2014, in Beverly Hills.19 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs in concert at Barclays Center on Sept. 25, 2015, in New York City.20 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Atlanta Hawks in New York on Nov. 17, 2015. 21 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs during The Buffet Tour at Allstate Arena on May 7, 2016, in Chicago.22 of 23
  • R. Kelly performs during The Buffet Tour at Allstate Arena on May 7, 2016, in Chicago.23 of 23

 

 

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