In a tense sit-down interview with CBS This Morning‘s Gayle King, embattled R&B singer R. Kelly defiantly refuted allegations that he has sexually and physically abused women and denied that the two twentysomething women who are currently living with him are being held against their will.
“I don’t look at much younger than me. I just look at legal,” said Kelly, 52, when asked to address the age difference between himself, 23 year-old Joycelyn Savage and 21 year-old Azriel Clary. “I just look at you’re you, I’m me. Now, I don’t know if you’re married. I don’t know. I don’t know if you have a relationship. I don’t know what you — you know, I don’t know. But one might be older than the other. One might be younger than the other, okay? So I just look at legal, okay? People. There are older men that like younger women…there are younger women that like older men.”
Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in Chicago last month, shortly after the bombshell Surviving R. Kelly docu-series aired, featuring interviews with accusers and former members of the singer’s entourage who claimed that he targeted young and vulnerable women to join what some have described as a “sex cult.” The singer, whose hyper-sexualized persona has been a calling card for more than three decades, has plead not guilty to the charges that authorities say involve four victims, three of whom were allegedly under age when the suspected crimes took place.
Savage and Clary’s parents have said they believe Kelly has brainwashed their daughters, with the Clary’s reportedly releasing a statement through their attorney in which they call Kelly a “liar, manipulator and sociopath”; the Savages are reportedly planning to hold a press conference addressing Wednesday morning’s (March 6) interview later in the day. The sit-down with King was Kelly’s first interview since the airing of the documentary and the filing of the charges against the singer.
Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008 after prosecutors alleged that he was depicted in a video having sex with an underage girl, told King that all the women who are accusing him of physical and sexual abuse now are liars, saying of Savage and Clary, “I love ’em and it’s almost — it’s like they’re my girlfriends…it’s like, you know, we have a relationship. It’s real. And I know, guys — like, I’ve known guys all my life that have five or six women, okay? So don’t go there on me, okay? ‘Cause that’s the truth.”
Asked if he’s an older man who likes younger women, Kelly said, “I’m a older man that loves all women,” claiming that he met Joycelyn Savage when her father brought her to one of his concerts when she was 19. “I didn’t go looking for a Joycelyn Savage. I was doing my show…he brought her and asked a friend of mine to put her on the stage with R. Kelly, make sure she’s on the stage.”
Kelly also met Clary at one of his concerts when her parents claim the 17 year-old was pulled on stage at a 2015 show. The singer confirmed that he’s “seeing her,” but denied that the relationship started when she was 17. “Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” he said when King asked if he’d had sex with Clary when she was 17. “Although her parents wanted me to.” CBS reported that Clary’s parents claim to have text messages that prove Kelly had sex with their daughter before she turned 18. “Claim, claim,” he responded.
When King pushed back and asked Kelly what kind of love he could possibly be sharing that would keep the young women away from their families, he said, “I’m going to answer your question. What kind of father, what kind of mother, will sell their daughter to a man?” In the course of what was described as an 80-minute interview, King also pressed Kelly to say definitively that he’s never had a relationship with an underage woman.
“People are going going back to my past…and they’re 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,” he said, noting that he could not discuss previous cases related to alleged relationships with underage women due to his current case. When King said his past with underage women was relevant to what’s going on now, Kelly said “absolutely not. Because, for one, I beat my case. When you beat something, you beat it. You can’t double jeopardy me like that.” Kelly said he’s been “assassinated…buried alive” by the allegations.
Leaning forward in his seat, Kelly repeatedly denied holding anyone against their will, as a number of accusers claimed in the docu-series. “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… how stupid would I be to do that?” The singer then broke down, jumping out of his seat, screaming and crying at the camera that he was “fighting for [his] fucking life!”
Kelly was adamant that he has broken no laws in his relationships with women, denying the allegations in the docu-series that he’s controlling, keeps women in a cult-like harem and doesn’t allow them to speak to their families. “Why would all these women say the same thing about you? That you are controlling, that you are abusive, that you tell women when to eat, when to go to the bathroom, when they can sleep, where they can dress?” King asked as Kelly grew weepy. “Why would all these women tell all these different stories about you if they were not true? And they don’t know each other? That defies logic to me.”
Kelly, who moments earlier said all his accusers — including his ex-wife, Andrea Kelly — in the series were “lying on me,” said none of it makes sense until you hear his explanation. “You can start a rumor on a guy like me or on a celebrity just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. “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 that it just didn’t work out she can come and say the exact same thing,” he said, blaming the power of social media for his current issues.
When King asked Kelly is he’s done anything he regrets in past relationships or done anything wrong, he said “lots of things wrong when it comes to women that I apologized, but I apologized in those relationships at the time that I was in those relationships.” After his emotional outburst, CBS reported that Kelly took a moment with his publicist to calm down.
“I hope this camera keep going,” Kelly said when he returned. “This is not true! That doesn’t even make sense! 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? They really are on chains. They really do have chains on their — on their wrists and they can’t get out and they end up buried and dead.” King, trying to pull the focus back, asked Kelly to stop ranting at the camera.
“I came here for them to hear me talk. I need help!” Kelly responded as King wonddered what kind of help he was referring to. “This is the kind of help I need. I need somebody to help me not have a big heart, because my heart is so big. People betray me, and I keep forgiving ’em!” Kelly said. King suggested he was playing the “victim card,” to which Kelly replied, “I’m just telling the truth. I’m just telling the truth. And the reason I’m emotional — and I apologize for that.”
Kelly is due back in court on March 22 and is facing up to 70 years in prison if found guilty on all 10 charges. More of the King interview is slated to air on Thursday (March 7), including sit-downs with Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage.
Watch some of the Kelly interview below.