Earlier this week, a new report from TMZ indicated a source from Usher's camp says that the singer denies Sharpton's story and that the two never had sexual relations. In hopes of uncovering the truth regarding this ordeal, Shapton's lawyer, Lisa Bloom spoke to Billboard about her client's lawsuit against Raymond, why she decided to take the case, and her aim to reach "justice and accountability."
What made you decide to tackle the lawsuit against Usher Raymond?
Lisa Bloom: Well, I'm generally on the side of the underdog against a powerful person or company. That's what I've been doing for 31 years. In the case of Usher, there have been news reports for about a month that he was diagnosed with genital herpes in 2009 or so. And then, in 2012, he paid off a woman who he had infected without warning her first. There were some documents posted online to substantiate that. The news organization that posted it is standing by their story. So Usher has not responded.
It's possible that those news reports are false, but based on that, a lot of people have called me. They're real concerned about their reproductive health, because they say that they've had unprotected sex with Usher since 2012. He failed to warn them. They would not have had sex with him if they knew he had a terrible STD like herpes. Some of them are positive and some of them are negative, but in all cases, if he was positive and he knew it and he didn't disclose it, he exposed them to the virus and that's a violation of their rights.
So my team at the Bloom Firm and I have been doing a lot of research on this, and a lot of investigation the last couple of weeks. We've decided to represent three of these individuals who have stories that have corroboration, which means evidence or witnesses to back them up. As to the others, we're still reviewing their stories and still investigating. But you know, I think ordinary people deserve to have their rights protected. So that's what this is all about to me.
Numerous sources have indicated that your client, Quantasia Sharpton, once revealed on Twitter that she was in need of money.
Well, numerous sources have not revealed that. This is all based on one post on social media of out thousands and thousands of posts that she's done where she simply said three words: "I need money." Let's not enlarge that to "numerous sources says that she's desperate for money." 99% of America needs money. So it's a simple statement.
She's not a wealthy person. She's a single mom. She lives in a tough neighborhood. And she has over the years made jokes to her friends on social media and they've joked back things like, 'Hey! Wanna loan me me a million dollars?' This is just the way people talk to each other. I think if 99% of America was being honest, they too would say they need money. This is not a crime to be poor. It's not a crime to be honest about it. That's a big stretch from that to say that she's lying about this case.
We haven't put a dollar amount on the case. We haven't asked for a particular amount of money, unlike some other cases that have been filed. This is not about money. And what she said in the press conference was, 'Hey Usher: If you're negative just say so, so that everybody's mind can be put at rest.' Does that sound like somebody to you who's just greedy for money?
What made her decide to come out now rather than earlier?
It's only been a few weeks. It's only been about three or four weeks since this news broke about Usher being positive for genital herpes. Nobody knew that before. If it's true, the only people who knew it were Usher and whoever he revealed that to, but he didn't reveal that to my clients. So Quantasia called me, as did many, many others to find out what their rights are.
What their rights are is that they have the right to be warned when making a decision about whether they want to have sex with somebody who has an STD -- because we all get to make choices about our own bodies with full information.
A report on TMZ came out saying that someone from his camp says that Usher denies ever sleeping with your client and that he brought her onstage as an "esteemed booster." What are your thoughts on that new report?
This is very interesting to me. Number one, there are a lot of videos that you can find very easily -- I retweeted one of them -- of Usher choosing to bring onstage a woman who is a plus-sized woman, dancing with her, very, very provocatively. If you look at his face in that video, he does not look like he's mocking anyone. He looks like he's into it and he even lies back and has her grind on him onstage. I will say that all of the women who have called me have been big women, have been heavy set, plus-sized women. I think the easiest thing for us to win in this case is that Usher enjoys big women.
I also find it interesting that he's choosing to have people make these statements for him and he still hasn't denied the herpes allegations, which is really the core of the case. So he's choosing to fat-shame Quantasia, who was one of his fans. Many of his fans look like her. I don't think that's appropriate. But the biggest problem that he has is videos showing that he's clearly into big girls. Final thought I would just say on that is, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and shame on him for trying to embarrass her because of her size. Her incident, by the way, was a couple of years ago, and she was slimmer than she is now. She's had a baby in the interim.
How has Quantasia been dealing with the controversy since the press conference?
It's been very hard on her. It's been hard to see her social media posts being taken out of context to try to humiliate her for not having money, for being a plus-sized woman. She knew that some of this was probably going to happen because there's a lot of cruelty in social media. I think all the meanest people in the world go on social media and try to embarrass people. Shame on them. It's been very, very hard for her.
Nevertheless, she is standing strong with her story. By the way, we have corroboration for this story. So you know, people can say what they want to say. I think she's very brave and the only way that we'll ever advance as a culture for ordinary people, is for people like Quantasia to stand up and say, 'This was wrong and I'm going to stand up for myself.' That's the only way we'll ever move anything forward. I'm very proud to stand with her and fight for her rights.
Have you looked into the possibility of Usher counter-suing?
Good luck. He has no legal basis to counter-sue. What is he going to counter-sue for? Defamation? He has not been defamed. Everything that I've said publicly is a truthful statement, namely that there's been news reports... I'm very well-versed in the law of defamation. I've been litigating a defamation case on Bill Cosby for the past couple of years and winning.
So that's not going to go anywhere. And if I were advising him I would say, 'Let's get to the bottom of this and let's get this resolved,' because there are a lot of people out there who are Usher fans who were thrilled at the idea that he was interested in them, that he wanted personal time with them, that he wanted to be intimate with them, who now are very upset. Deal with it.
Have you lost respect for Usher?
No. I mean, I don't know Usher. This isn't about me respecting him or not respecting him. As I said, he may be negative. I'm leaving open the possibility that news reports can be wrong. I'm leaving open the possibility that all these reports can say he has it. For some reason, he's had to hide it for weeks and weeks. I don't know what that reason may be, but perhaps he has a reason. It's possible. All he has to do is get this resolved.
Hypothetically speaking, if he were to have herpes, despite the STD not being transmitted over to Ms. Sharpton, does that still make him liable?
So yes. In California, he's still liable because if he was positive, and if he had sex with her without revealing it, he's still liable for exposing her, which is a violation of her rights.
There was a famous case a couple of decades ago against the actor Rock Hudson, who was sued by his sex partner for failing to reveal that he was HIV-positive. The sex partner was negative. Never did get the virus. Took him to trial and won several millions of dollars because the jury said that it was wrong to expose him, even if he didn't get it, it's still a violation of his rights, and he still had to go through the mental anguish and worry about being exposed. The law in California is also that if you fail to disclose something like this, it changes the nature of the act from consensual to nonconsensual.
With his insurance companies electing to bow out and not assist him, what's your take on that?
It's common. Listen, insurance companies never want to pay clients. So I'm not a huge fan of insurance companies. Usually, the first thing they do is say that, 'We're not getting involved in this.' Usher is going to have to pressure them to pay, if there is a payment. That's between Usher and his insurance company. I have the same issue in my Bill Cosby case. Bill Cosby's insurance company doesn't want to pay. I don't get involved in that. That's between him and his insurance company.
Do you in fact think that Usher knowingly slept with the people in question?
I have looked at the allegations that my clients have made very carefully. There is corroboration with those claims. I believe them to be credible. I wouldn't have brought this case if I didn't think they were credible. Many people come to me with all kinds of claims and cases, most of which I reject. This is a case I took because I find them to be credible.
I don't know Usher's side of the story. I'm open to hearing it. So far, we have not heard it, other than his people saying that he doesn't like plus-sized women, which is not credible. So I'm reserving judgment. I'm not the judge and jury here. I'm the attorney for the plaintiffs and I find them credible. Some of them have photos. They have friends who saw Usher coming in into the hotel room. So there is substantial evidence here.
What's the end-goal for you in this case? Is it for Usher to admit his faults or is to help your clients seek retribution?
Justice and accountability.
Could you elaborate?
Well, it's like I said before. If he's indeed positive -- and that's a big if -- and if he's had sex with people without warning them, he's violated their rights. It's wrong and he should be held accountable for it. That's why I'm doing this.