The week got off to a queasy start on Monday when Buzzfeed published a damning exposé on R. Kelly, accusing him of brainwashing and imprisoning several young women and further solidifying the allegations of pedophilia and sexual assault that have for years been associated with the R&B singer. Later that day, Kelly asserted his innocence in a statement sent through his lawyer. And that night, one of the alleged captives conducted an interview with TMZ, during which she said everything was fine.
It says something about R. Kelly that everyone finds the idea of him building a sex cult of young women to be “unsurprising,” a word that’s been used again and again to describe the story. But that’s because new allegations and evidence are consistently popping up; in 2014, for example, in the wake of a previous exposé into Kelly’s behavior, it was revealed that his housekeeper had also sued him for sexual harassment. Also, the singer has barely made an effort to mask his own perversions, whether that be through videotaping his dalliances with underaged women or by uttering damning statements in interviews.
One of the latter happened back in 2008, when journalist Touré, who was with BET at the time, asked Kelly point-blank whether or not he liked underaged girls. Touré recounted his experience in a new piece for The Daily Beast.
As soon as I heard that R. Kelly was going to talk to me, I know it was a huge opportunity to get after the truth. And I think the tool to get it was chosen at the last second; one of the questions I asked R. Kelly was, “Do you like *underage* girls?” and as soon as I asked it, before Kelly could speak, his crisis manager, a stern and serious man in a stuffy suit, jumped up and yelled, “No, you can’t ask that!” He filled the air with noise to halt the production and let Kelly breathe. But Kelly stopped him. No, he said, I want to answer this. So the crisis manager sat down. But this time I didn’t ask “Do you like *underage* girls?” At the last second I changed it to say; “Do you like *teenage* girls?” I think because I wanted something more clear—underage feels legalistic and up for debate whereas everyone knows what a teenager is. But of course, Kelly completely flubbed the question.
Boy, oh boy, did he flub it. Touré even included a tweet in the piece showing Kelly’s answer.
After a few questions about music meant to warm him up, I launched into what was intended to be a three-question series meant to get as close as I could to an admission that he liked young girls. He would’ve never said that but I figured it was possible to get him to somehow subtly signal that he couldn’t help himself. Because it must be a deep compulsion to transgress such a serious taboo so blatantly. I can’t recall what the second and third questions were because he failed the first. I thought it was a softball: “Do you like teenage girls?” Of course, he was going to say ‘no’ and in the follow up I would elicit something more honest but he tripped and face-planted right out of the gate.
“When you say teenage, how old are we talking?” he asked me.
I was dumbfounded. I thought of that as pretty much an admission. He was so unable to just say no that he truly did not know what to say and responded by asking me a dumb question. I thought, ‘Don’t let him see on your face how dumb that was.’ I failed. I basically did like a spit-take.
The interview went on from there, with Kelly pivoting and diverting in an effort to recover from his gaffe. But though it serves as further evidence of Kelly’s predatory behavior, it’s also yet another example of him narrowly evading being held accountable for his actions. Time will tell whether he’ll be able to do the same in the wake of these most recent allegations.