R. Kelly broke his silence on the sexual abuse charges he is facing Wednesday. The R&B singer sat down with CBS This Morning‘s Gayle King for nearly 80 minutes Tuesday and the result is an explosive interview that saw Kelly growing combative and so emotionally overwhelmed while defending himself — at one point standing and screaming into the camera — that King had to temporarily pause the interview.
“I’m very tired of all the lies. I’ve been hearing things and seeing things on the blogs and I’m just tired,” he told King when the cameras started rolling, explaining why he has decided to speak out.
King asked him which lies disturbed him the most.
“Oh my God. Um — all of them,” he said, then rattled off: “Got little girls trapped in the basement, helicopters over my house trying to rescue someone that doesn’t need rescuing because they’re not in my house. Handcuffing people, starving people. I have a harem, what you call it — a cult. I don’t even really know what a cult is. But I know I don’t have one.”
Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Kelly, has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, with three of the four victims being underage at the time of the alleged assaults, according to Chicago Police. He has pleaded not guilty and could face up to 70 years. Kelly is due back in court March 22.
The Grammy-winning artist has been under scrutiny for more than a decade. Kelly was previously arrested in 2002 for his alleged involvement in a child pornography tape — with a girl as young as 13 — and was acquitted when the case went to trial six years later. Lifetime’s recent six-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly explored that scandal in particular, along with sexual abuse allegations from a number of women, including Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Lee, when it released to record numbers for the network in early January.
The harrowing claims, which included allegations of sexual abuse against underage girls and Kelly allegedly holding women against their will in a so-called sex cult, gave rise to the #MuteRKelly campaign and Kelly’s career has been stalled in the months since; his Sony label dropped him ahead of his arrest.
Prosecutors in Chicago, New York and Atlanta were actively seeking information about Kelly in light of the accusations made in Surviving R. Kelly, and CBS News reports that federal and state authorities in New York and Illinois are now investigating a variety of allegations.
Kelly told King on Wednesday that he has done “lots of things wrong” when it comes to women, but denied that he has broken any laws.
The Surviving R. Kelly producers interviewed 50 people for the six-part doc. When sitting with Kelly, King listed the names of the seven women who came forward with their allegations of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in the doc — Lee, Kitty Jones, Lisa van Allen, Lisette Martinez, Jerhonda Pace, Faith Rodgers and Asante McGee.
“If you really look at that documentary, everybody says something bad about me,” he replied. “Nobody says nothin’ good. They was describing Lucifer. I’m not Lucifer. I’m a man. I make mistakes. But I’m not a devil and by no means am I a monster. They are lying on me.”
Kelly, who has denied the allegations since January and has been accused of retaliation against accuser Rogers, told King that it’s “so easy” for someone to accuse a celebrity of such claims on social media and that his accusers are seeking fame.
Later in the interview, when King presses Kelly about his 2008 trial and acquittal, and the new charges of sexual acts with minors, Kelly grows heated. Attorney Michael Avenatti has since submitted new recorded evidence, from recovered VHS videotapes, of Kelly allegedly assaulting underage girls that he says are unconnected to his previous criminal case.
“Have you ever had sex with anyone under the age of 17?” King asks.
“No,” Kelly replies.
“Never?” she says.
“No,” he again replies.
When King says she finds that hard to believe, Kelly interrupts her. “What women said about me? So nobody’s allowed to be mad at me and be scorned and lie about me? I have been assassinated. I have been buried alive — but I’m alive.”
When King asks if that means he is also denying that he has ever held anyone against their will, he began to speak about himself in the third person. “I don’t need to. Why would I? How stupid would it be for R. Kelly, with all I’ve been through in my way, way past, to hold somebody, let alone four, five, six, 50, you said [women]. How stupid would I be to do that? That’s stupid, guys!”
Kelly then spoke directly to the camera.
“Is this camera on me? That’s stupid! Use your common sense! Forget the blogs, forget how you feel about me. Hate me if you want to, love me if you want. But just use your common sense. How stupid would it be for me, with my crazy past and what I’ve been through – oh right, now I just think I need to be monster, and hold girls against their will, chain them up in my basement, and don’t let them eat, don’t let them out, unless they need some shoes down the street from their uncle!”
He then grew emotional and began to yell. “I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me. I’m fighting for my fucking life! You’re killing me with this!”
At this point, he stood up and began to hit his chest. He ignored King’s attempts to calm him and get him to sit back down.
“I gave ya’ll 30 years of my career! Are ya’ll trying to kill me? You’re killing me, man! This is not about music. I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids and I can’t do it. You just don’t want to believe the truth!”
King said they then had to pause the interview so Kelly could regain his composure. But she was able to get him to return and she did not back down on her line of questioning. At this point, he continued to rant into the camera.
“This is not true,” he said repeatedly when they picked back up. “Why would I hold all these women? Their fathers and mothers told me, ‘We’re going to destroy your career!’ It’s real girls out there missing! There’s real young girls out there being abducted, being raped, OK?”
When King accused Kelly of playing the role of the victim, he said that the help he needs is to not have such a “big heart.” Adding, “Because my heart is so big, people betray me and I keep forgiving them.”
Kelly also pushed back on King’s assertion that being a sexual assault survivor himself has affected his behavior. “Most people who are abusers have been abused, but not all people who have been abused go out and abuse other,” King said, quoting experts. “I’m in the ‘not all’ OK?” he said.
“I think that he needs help,” King told her co-anchors when breaking from the interview. “I thought in some ways we were seeing a breakdown before our eyes. He does think the world is out to get him and everybody is lying.”
Kelly’s former collaborator Sparkle, whose real name is Stephanie Edwards, gave a statement to CBS about the sit-down. “The interview is continued display of Robert’s entertain-at-all-costs mentality, with arrogance and a lack of accountability,” she said. Sparkle, who was featured in the doc, was the first woman to publicly accuse Kelly of misconduct when she claimed her underage niece was the girl featured in the sex video that led to his 2002 arrest.
On Thursday, CBS This Morning will continue its coverage on Kelly with King’s interviews with Joycelyn Savage, 23, and Azriel Clary, 21, two women who are currently in a relationship with Kelly and who live with him at his Chicago home.
Their parents believe Kelly brainwashed their daughters; both families spoke about being estranged from their daughters in Surviving R. Kelly. Savage’s parents have publicly accused Kelly of kidnapping their daughter, although she says she’s living with the singer on her own free will.
Kelly met Savage when she was 19 at one of his concerts; he met Clary when she was 17 when he pulled her on stage.
“I love them and it’s almost like they’re my girlfriends. It’s like we have a relationship. It’s real,” Kelly told King on Wednesday. “I’ve known guys all my life that have five or six women. OK? So don’t go there on me. Because that’s the truth.” When pressed about their ages — Kelly is 52 — the singer said, “I’m an older man that love all women.”
King asked him, “What kind of love is it that keeps these young women away from their families?”
Kelly denied having sex with Clary when she was underage, despite her parents claiming to have text message proof, and he accused the parents of “selling” their daughters to him and being OK with the relationship until “they weren’t getting no money” from it.
“You are saying the parents handed their daughters, Azriel and Joycelyn, over to you? Is that what you’re saying to us?” said King. He replied, “Absolutely.”
The CBS anchor spoke to Clary’s father about his claims (which will air Thursday) and the Savages plan to hold a press conference later Wednesday.
“[Kelly] is saying that the parents are in it for the money,” King summed up from her news desk Wednesday. “He is saying that both sets of parents brought the daughters to him in hopes that they would work together and that the parents would do a deal with him, that maybe the daughters could work. [Kelly] tells a very different story.”
Oprah Winfrey was one of many to take to social media to praise King for doing an “outstanding” job for maintaining a calm and steady focus during the interview. The interview airs days after Winfrey’s Leaving Neverland post-show special, After Neverland, where she sat down with Michael Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck to discuss at length their sexual abuse allegations; King was in the audience. Winfrey also suggested King ask CBS to release the full Kelly interview.
Watch King’s interview below.