Perfect Sound Forever

R. KELLY & OUR FAILURE


How did we let him abuse young black girls for years?
Jim DeRogatis interview by Jason Gross


In 1894, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes fled Chicago after an eight-year stint there, with authorities on his tail for arson charges though he was yet to be charged for the over two dozen self-confessed murders he had committed there. As a bigamist, he enticed the women to his specially-constructed 'castle' with secret rooms, hidden areas, mazes, a crematorium and other places where he stocked acid vats. After his capture two years later, he was tried and hung in Philadelphia. Many of Holmes' victims were thought to be women who had come to the Windy City to see the spectacular, renowned World's Fair there. He took advantage of the women's' youth and their star-struck nature (related to the Fair) to lure them in. If you wanna know more, the frightening details are there for you in a great book, which will soon be a movie.

Almost 100 years later, again in Chicago, up-and-coming R&B star R. Kelly would put out his first solo record (1993's 12 Play). One year later, he would marry singer Aaliyah, who was just 15 years old at the time and have the union annulled soon afterwards at the insistence of her family. As the new millennium began, Kelly had racked up numerous number one hits and multi-platinum sales and just released his fourth album, TP-2.com, which would garner awards from MTV, Soul Train and the NAACP. Right after the album came out, an anonymous fax was sent to the Chicago Sun-Times' music critic Jim DeRogatis- the author of the fax still remains a mystery to this day. The communique detailed allegations that Kelly was taking advantage of women's youth (they were pre-teens or in their early teen years) and their star-struck nature to lure them in. If you wanna know more, the frightening details are there for you in a great new book, which is in part the basis of a popular TV series.

Unlike Holmes, Kelly was never accused of murder, but the accusations that have piled up against him involving decades of twisted liaisons with dozens of under-age girls is truly horrifying.

From the initial fax sprang almost two decades of subsequent reporting from DeRogatis which cumulated in his recent book Soulless- The Case Against R. Kelly which documents the release of the infamous 2002 'pee tape' (which DeRogatis calls 'the rape tape' for accuracy), the Kelly indictment later that year, the not-guilty verdict handed down six years later and DeRogatis' explosive July 2017 Buzzfeed article about Kelly's 'cult' which revived interest in the ongoing story.

January 2019 saw the release of dream hampton's stunning Lifetime six-part documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which brought even greater scrutiny to the music star (and has just been renewed for four more episodes). This became the catalyst for a series of recent arrests of Kelly: February 22, 2019 for criminal sexual abuse in charges by the state of Illinois (he was later released on bail), a March 6, 2019 arrest for child support payment delinquency (again, he was released soon afterwards) and then an indictment again on July 12, 2019 by New York and Chicago prosecutors on numerous federal charges, including child sexual exploitation, kidnapping and racketeering. It's safe to say that the story isn't over and there will be more to come.

DeRogatis appeared at WNYC's Greene Space on June 4, 2019 alongside #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and writer Jamilah Lemieux to discuss the Kelly story. Reading a passage from the book about one of the victims, even after all of this time, DeRogatis still teared up when recounting his conversations with the women who told him their stories of abuse at the hands of Kelly.

One intriguing question that came up during the Greene Space appearance was if DeRogatis received information about abusive behavior from other music stars, which he had. He admitted that after 19 years on the Kelly story, he was ready to hand these allegations over to other reporters to pursue. What that means is that in the next few months and years, we're going to hear other stories about other stars who we might love and worship.

As I read Soulless, I found that as even as a former health care professional who dealt with bodily fluids, body parts, death and post-mortem on a regular basis, I still had problems going through the book- I had to keep putting it down every 10 pages or so because many of the details were so unsettling. I'm not going to lie and tell you that the book is easy read, but it's also a very necessary read too.

There was something else that bothered me as I read the book- how could Kelly's behavior go on for years without any consequences? DeRogatis details in the book how Kelly used his fame and money to kill stories about him and pay off witnesses but it seemed that there was more to it than this. Granted, the #MeToo movement didn't exist in 2000 and as such, we take these accusations more seriously now, but we can't use that as the sole excuse to say that's why these crimes shouldn't have been taken more seriously back then.

In the phone interview below, I asked DeRogatis about the failure for the Kelly stories to come to the fore over the last few decades and what needs to change so that this doesn't take so long again for another star to take advantage of women for so long before being held accountable.




PSF: With regard to the failure of the rest of the media to follow-up on the Kelly story, there's a lot of blame to go around.

JD: I agree completely. I think every system in Chicago failed: the courts, the civil attorneys, the churches, the schools and journalism.

PSF: It's broader than that though. The rest of the country is culpable in this too.

JD: Oh yeah. For sure. I mean, Chicago had the chance to end it but the rest of the country, the rest of the world did, too.


PSF: When your Buzzfeed article came out, I ran into Jim Testa (Jersey Beat and an old friend of DeRogatis) and we were talking about the article and he said was saddened by the whole thing and said that the problem was "people just don't care about black girls." I was struck by that as I heard dream hampton bring up the same issue in a Complex interview and heard you say the same thing in recent interviews too. It seems that this issue is part of the crux of the problem of the story taking so long to take hold in our culture. Because the accusers weren't celebrities and because of their race and gender, the charges they made against Kelly weren't taken as seriously as they should have been.

JD: Yeah, well, I had said it in an interview in late 2013 with Jessica Hopper in The Village Voice. So I think Jim was echoing what I said and what I was doing was echoing what dozens of young black women had said to me for, at that point, 13-14 years by then.

What I was doing as a journalist was giving a voice to the people telling me something, and nobody was listening to them.

And race is inextricably part of this in two ways. Kelly, with the exception of "I Believe I Can Fly," is almost exclusively a black phenomenon before 2013. He is not a household name the way Bill Cosby was. Kelly was a God in black communities- in the book, I write about (how his songs are at) the backyard BBQ, weddings, graduations. He's part of the black community's life. At the same time, aside from the Space Jam movie and "I Believe I Can Fly," there's a really low white awareness. I mean, Damon Dunn, the attorney who vetted the book and every word The Sun-Times published, had literally never heard of R. Kelly when he was vetting the first article we did back in 2000. And for that matter, my reporting partner, Abdon Pallasch, knew Space Jam and that was it. And they both got up to speed really quickly. I have a memo from Damon in the files- "when I read the first draft, I was concerned and I did ten minutes of research and this man is a superstar." Yes, right! (laughs) So even in the newsroom, even the editors didn't understand the position that Kelly held. So, it was cultural and musical.

And number two, I think, as far as journalism is concerned, they didn't understand the culture, they didn't understand the music, and they certainly didn't understand the victims. Then there are bigger issues... The music critic, the 'music news writer,' doing short rewrites of press releases, they just didn't see it as their obligation to investigate or even acknowledge the context, which is unforgivable. Look, not everybody has the investigative reporting chops that I brought, which is why the first person segments of the book are in there. Jamison Stoltz, my editor, and I both thought it was important to say how I came to be an investigative reporter. I've always been one.

You know, there's lots of other things that critics and journalists failed on. But I think race is the big one, and to what extent were people who were writing about popular music carrying racist tropes. This is from black studies, feminist scholars- the notion that the black women is un-rape-able because she always wants sex and the Mandingo notion. The first time I heard that, I'm like 'oh jeez... explain what you mean by that," And it's the sixth time that I'm talking to an academic or cultural critic explaining it- the idea of, what Kelly called himself, 'the sexual superfreak'- and playing into those things.

Then in 2013, when Derrel McDavid, the manager after Barry Hankerson, was running Kelly's career, he super-shrewdly decides that the retro soul thing is played out. He thinks 'we need to pivot- let's reach out to Pitchfork.' And by Pitchfork, I mean the entire demographic, that entire mindset. The pop-ists. They think he's super funny. They love "Trapped In the Closet." They think all of this is shtick. Mind you, this is about six years after he's acquitted. And that's ancient history by then because it happens on the cusp of the digital era and it's not easily Googled. So, there's this new generation that he courts at Coachella with the headlining slots with Phoenix (who Kelly performed with there) and Bonnaroo, of all places. And I tried hard to get the Bonnaroo bookers and festival organizers to comment on why (they booked Kelly).

I tried to get Coachella to comment on why (they booked Kelly) and I tried to get Phoenix to comment on why they headlined with him at Coachella and of course Pitchfork. Neither (president) Chris Kaskie or (founder) Ryan Schreiber would talk to me and I guess they just thought I was a pompous, moralistic, out-of-touch asshole who always gave them crap.

Two years earlier, I gave them crap for booking Odd Future (in 2011) but denying Rape Victim Advocates. It's this incredible organization where volunteers sit with sexual assault victims and take them through the process of the police report, the rape kit, the hospitalization. It's amazing and they said 'this is a homophobic, misogynistic group and we want to be a presence and have a table with pamphlets and information.' And Pitchfork initially denied them. They got Greenpeace and whoever on site and everybody gets a table but they were coming late to the game. After the line-up was announced, Pitchfork did not want to accommodate them. So I hammered home on that on the blog on WBEZ and I disliked severely Odd Future. You know, how much 'fun' it is to rape old women 'cause they're in a nursing home and they can't get away in a wheelchair?? I'm certainly not saying that Tyler or anyone else associated with the group did that. In fact, we now know that they were pretty much living alternative sexual lifestyle themselves. But the rapping was intentionally juvenile transgressive button-pushing. So, I had gotten comments from Schreiber and those guys when I wrote those stories and I was old and clueless and fat and moralistic and pompous and out of touch. But when they booked Kelly, they wouldn't even talk to me.

And so, I wrote about Kelly's performance there and they eventually let Rape Victim Advocates in. And they changed their name- it's now 'Resilience.' And there is a young 20-something spinoff that is reaching out into other cities called Our Music My Body. And they are fantastic. They not only do information- they go into classes, high school and grammar school. It's riot grrl- girls to the front. It's how to avoid a situation where you can avoid being touched in a way that you don't want to be and enjoy music, which is as much your right as the bro's. And interestingly, at a public forum that I did with them two years ago, at the Harold Washington Library (Chicago), they were saying that every year, 'big, bad , corporate' Lollapalooza welcomes them in with open arms, gives them whatever space they want, trumpets them being there, gives the girls staffing the tables VIP passes.

So I had interviewed numerous women about the problem they called 'bro-ism' in indie rock. I give you all of this because this is the background. When I reviewed Kelly's actual performance and said how it struck me to the core of my being and pained me that Wire is performing on that festival bill and Savages, the best band I've seen since Nirvana, and then there's Kelly. And I grappled with all this and for my troubles, I was derided as fat, old, pompous, moralistic, divisive.

And Jessica Hopper wrote some snotty tweets and so I emailed her offline and said 'Everything you stand for is opposite this. Are you aware of the history? Would you like to see my three file boxes full of the lawsuits?' I mean, I got a call after my review of the concert ran from one of the victims, saying 'thank you for never forgetting.' And Jessica, to her credit, did a 180, and did a 2-3 hour interview. The online interview for the Voice is endless and that's where I said 'nobody matters less than black girls' and that quote went viral. I was surprised- I really was, because I've been saying it for years.

(ED NOTE: the full quote from the article is "The saddest fact I've learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.")

And all I was doing was repeating what the young black girls had told me.

I mean, that's a long history but all of it's necessary because the weird cultural amnesia… and look man, I'm 54 and I do not expect any young critic to know everything I know and I don't know everything that Greil Marcus or Joe Nick Patoski or Peter Guralnick knows. You don't either but we're always working our way there.

I've always believed that the diversity, in terms of color, age and gender and sexual orientation, for critics is absolutely necessary. And in the jobs when I've been an editor, I would have no problem sending a 19 or 20 year old critic whose voice I respect to review the Rolling Stones, now age 75. I would expect her to do her homework, to look into the context and know that it's Darryl Jones on bass now and Jagger just had heart surgery. That's what a reporter does. I expect them to do their goddamn reporting.

And 'who,' 'what,' 'when,' 'where' is essential to any review. But that fifth 'W' that is missing from all too much news coverage… Donald Trump had a racist tweet yesterday. WHY? Because he's got to play America on racism against itself to win office. But unless you're an op-ed columnist, you're not allowed to say that. But the critic is in the rare position of after you get the first four 'W's' right, and they better be right, then the rest of your review is the WHY. 'Why does this move me? What does it say to me?' Insight, evidence, context. That's what I hammer home in every one of my classes, Reviewing the Arts and Cultural Criticism and the Arts. That is the core. That is the best way that I have to articulate what we as critics do: we provide our emotional reaction and intellectual analysis to a work of art, using three tools- insight, evidence and context.

Now I've always thought context is the easiest. Jagger's not 59, he's 75. Get it right, OK? They haven't released a new album in X number of years. Get those right. I mean, that's really easy. Except… when you write something complicated about why did Pitchfork book Odd Future. I remember asking Schreiber in that interview, this would have been 2010 or 2011, 'would have you have booked a racist, anti-Semitic skinhead band?' 'No, no, no.' 'They why are you booking this band that has its lyrics with such hatred of women and gays?' And again, they (Odd Future) weren't doing this. Kelly was. So even then, there's degrees. But even then, as the dominant culture organ of that time, I think with this position of success… but this is the same attitude I have about Rolling Stone, there comes a certain responsibility. Co-signing, as the kids say, Odd Future or booking Ryan Adams next year if they did, or booking R. Kelly, you can't just say 'it's mere entertainment.' It says something and it's an endorsement. And you're making money on that band.

So all of that was in play. And I do think that there's a certain amount of racism involved in the critics who stood up for Kelly. Were they over-compensating, trying to seem as if they weren't racist, but not looking into or not mentioning the charges against him, not wanting to be seen as "tearing down a black superstar," something I got a lot, and never mind that all of his victims were women of color. It's a complicated question that nobody's wrestling with.


PSF: There were other factors about why this story didn't break the way it should have long ago and part of that I think is the disgust factor related to all of the things that Kelly did over many years.

JD: Yeah, Bill Wyman (the writer, not the Rolling Stone bassist) wrote a piece years ago about Cosby and (Michael) Jackson where he called it 'the Ick Factor.' Roman Polanski was with a teenage girl and anally raped this underage girl in a hot tub. And we go 'ugh! Ick!" We don't want to know. But with Kelly, it didn't hold because we didn't see the victims as people, right? I mean, what happened? It was 'the pee tape,' not 'the rape tape'- it was made a joke. And it's complicated, right? In the new federal indictments, it said that Kelly subjected the girl who was 14, Reshona Landfair, to sadomasochistic acts. I'm not the sex-pert but it seems to me that urology, water sports is a fetish, not a sadomasochistic act. But you haven't seen the tape and I have and so have 100 investigators and the jurors and the people in the courtroom. It is a 26 minute, 39 second documentation of a rape. There is zero joy evident. She has the vacant-eyed disembodied look of a zombie. She is being ordered what to do. Ordered to call him 'daddy.' Ordered to dance for him. Ordered to pose for him. Urinate for him, not on him. And then ordered to open her mouth as she takes his urine.

I mean, it's horrifying and yet Dave Chappelle and Aziz Ansari and Chris Rock and Cedric the Entertainer and dozens of comedians, both black and white, reduced it to one act and made it a joke. And I think comedy is now wrestling with that in an epic way. I've seen many of those discussions. But we're talking about music criticism and music criticism has to be wrestling with it too.


PSF: Going back to the 'ick factor' angle, our culture loves gossip about affairs and broken romances and such but when it comes to graphic stories we hear about Kelly, that would have been a turn off to people who read gossip rags like The Inquirer or The Star for them to say 'hey, I have my limits.'

JD: Yeah, I think people turned away from it because it was so distasteful. But that doesn't forgive journalists from looking at it and it doesn't forgive critics from contending with it in the art, because it's part of the context. He was never more successful, selling more records, filling more arenas than he was from the period of 2002, when he was indicted, to 2008, when he was tried. So, this leaves a deeper question that I think I'm still wrestling with and there's more to be said about it.

There's a book by a group of British academic women called Under My Thumb: Songs that Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. And they wrestle with everything from the Stones song to Eminem. And they're doing self-examination and culture studies- why do these songs appeal to me? Is there something in particular about music that we celebrate that's transgressive and we are drawn to it? We're not acting on it but we like the bad boy and that minimalizes what I'm talking about, that behavior.

I mean, it's one thing to discuss it in terms of "Under My Thumb," on the other hand, Spotify is streaming a bunch of Charles Manson tracks to this day. Now, Manson was a horrible musician. You know, the Beach Boys recorded one of his songs but he was a failed musician. I mean, there's no reason to listen to that for pleasure. So you're listening to it because you know what he did. And I love "Death Valley '69" by Sonic Youth and Lydia Lunch. Art for thrills and danger. And this is an old question. I mean, Saint Lester (Bangs), as you know, one of my big inspirations, who wrote about Altamont, who had seen the Stones a half a dozen times before, and he said he had never seen them better, so electric, so alive. The fact that a black man is beaten to death by the Hell's Angels for the 'sin' of being with a white woman while the cameras roll in Gimme Shelter, while the band's on stage… This electric thrill of danger, evil… You know, Iggy Pop, still at 70-whatever, still comes out on stage, rips off his shirt, throws the microphone stand into the crowd, complete with the 20-pound iron base on it. And if it hits somebody in the face, TOO BAD! I saw him at the Peppermint Lounge (NYC, October 1982) on the Zombie Birdhouse tour and he hocked a loogie and it hit me in the fucking forehead… and I thought it was great.

So you know, all of this is kind of unique to rock and roll, there's not many critics, much less journalists who understand that. You do, I do, sort of. Kaleefa Sanneh should have. And I know all these people. I've never talked to Kaleefa but I like Maura Johnston. But I name the names and I'm sure there's plenty of people of the six or seven who I name, including (Jon) Caramanica, who I guess isn't mad at me 'cause he just had me on to talk about Hootie on his Popcast and he wrote that nice piece about me And I haven't heard from Jon Pareles (New York Times, pop music critic). I think the only critic who got it right was Robert Christgau. He never gave Kelly a pass. He hung him out to dry whenever he wrote about him. And I think Bob, with his '60's, feminist worldview… I think he was right. I really appreciate that. I think there were a few critics- you know, Bill Wyman was another- but not many. It felt really lonely to consistently read, 'despite all that unpleasantness, R. Kelly's a genius.' You know, you've read the book where I quote those reviews. I mean, some of them are hard to believe. They flew in publications like Rolling Stone and The New York Times. You know, it's pretty horrifying. How much of it is race? How much of it is sexism? How much of it is cluelessness? How much of it is the critic thinking he was not a journalist?

And then there was yet another factor. I had an ongoing debate on some of these issues with Ann Powers for years. I was on a panel once with I think Ann and Evelyn (McDonald). Pamela Des Barres (author of I'm With the Band) is up there and Cynthia Plaster Caster and they're arguing that underage women taking off as groupies to tour America, serve rock stars and see the world and live this exciting life, as portrayed in Almost Famous, was actually an act of female self-empowerment. Cynthia Plaster Caster will say 'I was a Catholic school girl from Bridgeport. I saw the Beatles at Comiskey, they changed my life and then I had these wonderful adventures.'

But if you talk to Cynthia, she will also turn white and tremble and begin to shake and go silent if you asked about her experiences with Led Zeppelin's road crew. Of the GTO's, Miss Pamela had a best seller but three of them died really young- drug addiction, AIDS, depression/suicide. So this is the Diablo Cody, alternative-weekly version of post-feminism- this is the notion that the stripper is actually empowering herself because she could make minimum wage at Starbucks or she can make $500 a night. But I was a journalism major and sociology minor at NYU and if you look at the sociology of sex workers and strippers, the amount of depression and suicide and addiction- you see that it's not fun and good times for many of those women. I'm not saying it isn't possible to be happy in those jobs, but many of these women get trapped in a lifestyle that destroys them. So I think post-feminism was wrong about that.

And at the very least, that Kelly was not that. I mean, these girls initially thought 'I'm in control here, this is wonderful, he's going to make me a star, I'm next to this genius.' But they're 14 and 15. There's a discrepancy in who really has the power. I mean, we're aghast at the gymnast's doctor or the coach who seduces these young teenagers. I thought I'd done the reporting. I thought from that very first article in December 2000, I had made that case, albeit in dryer, daily newspaper language that was heavily lawyered, heavily edited, heavily vetted. I recount the argument two years after the first story about 'how do we describe the urination in her mouth? Do we include that detail?' If I had been writing for The Village Voice, it would have been different. Writing for Buzzfeed was pretty dry. Writing for The New Yorker, absolutely different. But the book is as I always wanted to write it, here is exactly what happened, not tawdry or sensationalized, but not sparing the facts, and some of it isn't easy to read because of that.

Still, from the very first story in December 2000, I thought the story was strong enough to wake up Chicago and beyond but it didn't because of these emotional resonances and the problem of people not believing black girls. Not just the white community, who didn't know or care about Kelly, but the black community, who believed that the black superstar who had risen from their streets and made it, he couldn't have done this. They did not believe the women, who were their sisters, their aunts, their cousins, their classmates. I mean, jeez… And I thought it was enough to resonate with other journalists, because you read the story, you see the sourcing, you see the documentation. And then, you see the video tape, or you don't, but you know what's in it 'cause we reported it and he's charged for it, and the documentation and the other lawsuits. All of these were public record. Where was Rolling Stone? Where was Vanity Fair? Where was The New Yorker? Where was ANYBODY, coming to Chicago, looking at these lawsuits, ringing the doorbells that Abdon and I rang? It was, like I said, not hard to find. ANY black woman on the South or West side of this city could steer you to someone who had been victimized, if she hadn't been herself or she hadn't seen it or witnessed, she'd heard about it.


PSF: So why didn't other writers and publications take up on the story and run with it after your reporting came out?

JD: The benign defense of that is 'well, DeRogatis owns this story- the (rape) tape came to him.' But that's not the case with Ronan Farrow vs. Jodi Kantor- it's not how New York Times and New Yorker treated the Harvey Weinstein case. Julie K. Brown was similarly lonely for a very long time at the Miami Herald on the Epstein case, but it's been since come to bear that it's a big deal, and every media outlet is on it now.

But even with Surviving R. Kelly, to this day, you know in July 2019, I have not read another reporter break any significant element of the Kelly story. There's not another key victim. I have never learned anything other than an arraignment date or something like that, a minor fact. I've never learned anything else of substance from any other reporter about this case. WHY? I don't understand that.

And I would applaud if somebody gets the 5-hour, in-person sit down on the record with Reshona Landfair tomorrow. I will go kiss whoever that reporter is. I really will. I mean, Abdon, me and Mary Mitchell (of Chicago Sun-Times), none of us ever felt proprietary on this story because it was a monster hurting people and he needed to be stopped. We wanted everyone to be writing about this!

Any journalist is welcome to come to Chicago and look at the files that are public record. And it still astounds me that there are four explosive stories about the four civil lawsuits that are sitting in Cook County Circuit Court, as fucked up as a filing system is, but this is public record, and nobody went and got them. I mean, they had a producer do it for Lifetime, you know. But none of those women who filed a civil suit spoke to Surviving.


PSF: Another thing that might have dissuaded readers was seeing how he got off in the original trial and then after that thinking 'oh, it's just another R. Kelly story…' after the previous trial might have 'proved' Kelly's innocence to some people.

JD: Yeah, I think there's that. I go into some detail in the book about… so, OK, how could a smart black woman like J. Savage allow her daughter Joy to be next to him in 2016, when he'd been acquitted eight years earlier but these charges always lingered? I think this lust for celebrity and fame is the sickest disease in America right now. It's what led us to have President Trump. There's no currency, even money, that's more lusted after than everybody's 15 minutes in the spotlight. But also, these are human beings. They make mistakes. 'It's gonna be different for my daughter. I'm gonna be by her the whole time. She will never be alone with him.' And here, we are underestimating the powers of the monster, the predator. Say it's a Catholic priest- he's in a position of trust. 'Everything will be OK for Johnny with Father Mark…' even if you've heard some things about Father Mark. 'Yeah, but they'll always be with the other altar boys…' and so on.

The predator is expert at separating the victim from their loved ones, friends, family and then lying to and seducing the victims. Then, you get into the whole other thing that Bill Wyman described- this kind of Manson-like charismatic power, which I don't understand and I don't know that I'll ever understand. I know that Dominique Gardner, who was with him for nine years doesn't fully understand. That moment in the book, among the creepiest, where she says "it's those eyes" when she sees his mug shot. "It's those eyes, Jim." I'm like 'holy fuck,' right? I don't understand that.

I think this is a common problem in journalism. It's part of rape culture. We don't understand the victims. 'Dr. Anita Hill- why didn't you come forward sooner?' 'Dr. Christine Blasey Ford- why didn't you come forward sooner?' 'We heard that you laughed at this.. or you later sent him a Christmas card.' All this shit, man! People do not understand the way that victims act. There is no ONE way victims act. For testifying in court or a hearing, there is no 'perfect' victim. These are complicated situations, complicated emotions. But all I know is we didn't believe Dr. Ford any more than we believed Dr. Hill and that happened even before Nirvana made the charts. And here we are in the same goddamn fucking place! Still.

And I hold journalists to high standards. I think journalists should be aware of that. It's one thing for the Clary or the Savage families to want the best for their daughters and believe that R. Kelly will make them a star and that 'other stuff' is in the past and 'he was acquitted' and 'I don't know how much of it was true and how much wasn't.' But if you're a journalist, read.. the.. journalism. If you're covering Jeffrey Epstein, read the reporting that Julie K. Brown did. If you're covering Harvey Weinstein, you better damn well read everything that Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey and Ronan Farrow wrote. And it happened and this morning, The New Yorker dropped one of those epic bombshell stories by Jane Mayer who is a goddess as a reporter, about how (Al) Franken was railroaded. Now, granted, I don't think that's a major problem, men being wrongly accused.

If you look at the FBI statistics, which is a conservative source of information, the feds say that of all sexual assaults against women, only 40% are reported. Of those, only 4% are false accusations. But remember, that's 4% of 40% and most are unreported so what we're really talking about is that for the rape victims who accuse men, something like 2% are ever false accusations. The courage to withstand the vilification that happens to a victim who comes out – when she speaks about a rich, powerful famous man, it's living hell, and what they go through is horrifying. I mean, they're victimized anew, twice, by the media, by the community, especially in Chicago. You know, 'they're bitches, hoes, gold diggers… any of these girls who spoke out against Kelly.' These are really complicated issues. As I said that night, sitting next to (#MeToo founder) Tarana Burke, the least of it is how we're gonna deal with art in the future but you know, 99% of what you and me do is that, so that's the question that lingers, for us as critics.


See Part II of the R. Kelly article


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