BY TRACY SWARTZ
Embattled R&B singer R. Kelly angrily denied accusations that he has had sex with underage girls and holds women against their will in his first TV interview since being charged with sexual abuse last month.
“I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my (expletive) life!” Kelly told “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King. “Ya’ll killing me with this (expletive). I gave you all 30 years of my (expletive) career! Thirty years of my career! And ya’ll trying to kill me. You killing me man. This is not about music. I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids, and I can’t do it. Ya’ll just don’t want to believe the truth.”
The first part of the interview, which was taped Tuesday (March 5) in Chicago, aired Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.” More footage was scheduled to air Thursday on the morning show.
King also chats with Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage in an emotional interview set to air Friday morning. The women’s parents have alleged that Kelly is holding them against their will. He told King he is in a relationship with them and “it’s like they’re my girlfriends.”
The 52-year-old singer, who is out on bail, pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse last month. The charges involve four women, three of whom were allegedly teenagers at the time. Each of the Class 2 felony counts carries a maximum of seven years in prison upon conviction but also could result in probation.
Acquitted in 2008
A Cook County jury acquitted Kelly of child pornography charges in 2008.
“I will tell you this: People are going back to my past, OK? That’s exactly what they’re doing. They’re going back to the past, and they trying to add all of this stuff now to that. To make all of this stuff that’s going on now feels real to people,” Kelly told King.
The charges came weeks after the Lifetime network aired a six-part docuseries that traced the singer’s South Side roots, his rise to fame with songs such as “I Believe I Can Fly” and the allegations that he has had sexual relationships with underage girls and runs a so-called “sex cult.”
The series — which featured interviews with nearly 50 people — was inspired by years of reporting by Chicago journalist Jim DeRogatis.
‘I’m not Lucifer’
Kelly, who said he was sexually abused as a kid, dismissed the women who shared their stories on the Lifetime series as liars.
“If you really look at that documentary, which I’m sure you have, everybody says something bad about me. Nobody said nothing 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,” Kelly said.
He told King: “The problem is is that I’m likable, and (the women) can’t be around me ‘cause certain things didn’t work out. And if things don’t work out, Lifetime — these girls were older. They were 20 years ago, 15 years ago. Why now? Why would they come out now?”
DeRogatis reported in a 2017 BuzzFeed story that some parents told police that Kelly was keeping their daughters against their will. His reporting sparked the #MuteRKelly movement to end the singer’s career and protests that helped lead to the cancellation of a performance Kelly had scheduled last year in Chicago.
On Gaga, Legend
Some artists, including Lady Gaga, recently apologized for past musical collaborations with Kelly. He addressed Gaga in particular in his interview with King.
“John Legend. Lady Gaga. The interesting thing about this is the fact that working with Lady Gaga, she’s a very great talent, you know, and it’s unfortunate that her intelligence go to such a short level when it comes to that. You know, I have nothing against none of these artists, but I think it’s not professional for them to do that because something like this can happen to any artist. Anybody famous. Anybody famous can get accused of so many different things,” he said.
King, who said she briefly met Kelly about five years ago, said the interview lasted about 80 minutes.
She said she visited Kelly’s home at Trump Tower off Michigan Avenue and spoke to him by a Christmas tree he keeps up year-round. King said she thought she “might get accidentally clobbered, but I never felt in danger talking” to the emotional Kelly.
“CBS This Morning” airs at 7 a.m. weekdays.