“I Have Been Buried Alive”: R Kelly’s CBS Interview Was A Disgusting, Entitled Mess
He had a chance to protest his innocence. Instead, we got a living portrait of toxic masculinity.
Rumours of misconduct have swirled around R&B singer and pop star R. Kelly for decades.
In the early ’90s, the then 27-year-old allegedly married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah; in the early ’00s, a video that allegedly depicted him engaged in a sexual act with an underage woman was circulated to the press; and, in 2017, three separate sets of parents claimed that he was holding their daughters captive in an abusive and harmful cult.
For his part, Kelly has avoided speaking out against such allegations publicly. In 2017, when the cult story broke, the musician communicated only through a representative, who “categorically denied” the claims.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 23, 2019
But now, due to increased pressure on the star prompted by an explosive documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, and the 10 counts of aggravated abuse that have been laid against him by police, he has been forced to break his silence, appearing on the CBS Good Morning Show.
However, rather than use the interview as an attempt to make amends, he instead threw a tantrum, whimpering for himself, shouting down host Gayle King, and acting like a man who is not used to having his power challenged.
From the interview’s very beginning, Kelly sought to discredit his alleged victims.
“I’m very tired of all of the lies,” the musician said when asked by King why he had agreed to be interviewed. “I’m just tired.”
Responding to claims that he kept women against their will in a cult, Kelly argued his ignorance. “I don’t really know what a cult is,” he said. “I know I don’t have one.”
“Stop it. You all quit playing! Quit playing! I didn't do this stuff! This is not me! I'm fighting for my f***ing life! Y'all killing me with this sh*t!" R. Kelly told CBS This Morning's Gayle King, standing up. "I gave you 30 years of my f***ing career!" https://t.co/l82RBXbICM pic.twitter.com/wzprtrF7dI
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) March 6, 2019
Later, when King asked why the musician thought so many women had all laid the same allegations on him, he adopted an argument historically favoured by those responding to such claims: that the women were doing it for the attention.
“All you have to do is push a button on your phone and say, ‘So and so did this to me, R. Kelly did this to me,’ and if you get any traction from that, if you’re able to write a book from that, if you’re able to get a reality show, then any girl that I had a relationship in the past [with] that just didn’t work out can come and say the same thing,” he claimed.
“I have been assassinated,” he added, later on in the interview. “I have been buried alive. But I’m alive.”
Initially composed and softly-spoken, Kelly soon became increasingly flustered and irate, gesturing wildly and thumping his chest. But King, for her part, stood her ground, coolly continuing her line of questioning, till her interview subject eventually snapped.
“I didn’t do this stuff,” Kelly said, tears in his eyes, punching his hands together. “This is not me. I’m fighting for my fucking life. You’re killing me with this shit.”
— Complex (@Complex) March 6, 2019
Seemingly unable to contain himself, Kelly leapt up, shouting at the camera while King stayed exactly where she was. It was only later, after the interview broke for a minute, and Kelly’s own publicist sat him down and calmed him, that the conversation could continue.
But for many, the damage to the musician’s reputation had already been done — and by the musician himself.
The interview was an opportunity for Kelly to calmly protest his innocence — to lay out his defence, and to respectfully respond to the allegations against him without seeking to smear the character of his alleged victims.
But instead of taking such an opportunity for what it was, Kelly gave a glimpse at the very temper that has been highlighted by his victims. He shouted; he sought to discredit those who have accused him. He became a living portrait of what toxic masculinity does when it is under threat. And through it all, King sat there across from him, calm and unmoving.
Lead Image: Kathryn Watson / CBS