R. Kelly’s Trainwreck Interview Shows He’s Still Listening to Bad Advice

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hoped I was done writing about embattled R&B singer R. Kelly, but the sordid affair keeps creating newsworthy events. Yesterday, I watched transfixed as Kelly, real name Robert Kelly, gave one of the worst TV interviews of the year — and it’s only March!

In Tuesday’s interview with “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Gayle King, Kelly, who’s facing 10 counts of sexual abuse, ranted, screamed, sweated, cried, stood up and at one point looked like he was going to hit her. He also claimed he has “been assassinated.”

However, King maintained her poise and calmly kept steering his rant back to questions about his behavior with women. At times, she sounded like a mother admonishing a child.

After I recovered from watching the spectacle, my first question was who let him do the interview in the first place? Kelly is facing so much bad publicity that at this stage, he’s better off laying low and hoping he can beat the charges. His media team must have known that King was going to ask him pointed questions about his sexual past and they should have prepared him how to best answer them.

During the King interview, Kelly claimed being sexually molested hasn’t affected him. In the Lifetime documentary, realizing he has a problem with videotaping his encounters with young women, Kelly says, “I need someone to pray for me.” It seems he has never received treatment for his problem. Like many people in the African-American community, his solution to serious mental health problems is to pray about it.

Kelly's also facing several other problems regarding how he’s handling the charges against him:

  • Kelly doesn’t seem to have the best people around him. From reviewing the Lifetime documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” it seems that Kelly is surrounded by hangers-on and enablers. In the documentary, we learn people in his camp knew about his sexual tastes and sometimes helped him commit crimes by driving him to hang out at schools and McDonald’s where he liked to meet young women. They also helped cover up his crimes by trying to intimidate victims or paying them off. An example of how Kelly’s crew operates is seen in a story told by Neal Brennan, co-creator of the groundbreaking “Chappelle’s Show.” After the show produced a skit parodying Kelly’s hit “Ignition,” his security team was so enraged they threatened to assault Chappelle and his crew. According to Brennan, violence was averted after both camps had a standoff in Chicago and managed to talk things out. Attorney Michael Avenatti, who uncovered a recent sex tape, claimed more than 10 Kelly enablers could face charges.
  • It’s well known Kelly grew up in extreme poverty and was sexually abused by a relative. He also has trouble reading and didn’t graduate from high school. A Vibe article written back in the 2000s, said he had the mentality of a teenager, hence his affinity for young women. He can relate to them. However, I think Kelly’s poor education has led him to make poor management choices. I don’t know who handles his PR, but he needs to fire them. The King interview should never have happened. However, I suspect his PR person is a friend from the neighborhood, who doesn’t know what the hell he or she is doing. Since most people don’t understand PR, they think it’s an easy gig. Many people think it’s a nothing job that anyone can do. However, most PR professionals realize it’s a job that requires skills, training and experience. Kelly needs to hire a top-notch crisis communication team who understand how to handle stars going through a media scandal. According to NewsOne, Don Russell, Kelly’s manager, claimed the star only had consensual relationships with women and videotaped his sexual encounters to document proof of consent. However, Kelly was recently caught in a video bragging out having sex with a girl who is 14. If Kelly surrounds himself with this kind of people, no wonder he’s in trouble.
  • I question if Kelly has dealt with his issues with medical professionals? During the King interview, Kelly claimed being sexually molested hasn’t affected him. In the Lifetime documentary, realizing he has a problem with videotaping his encounters with young women, Kelly says, “I need someone to pray for me.” It seems he has never received treatment for his problem. Like many people in the African-American community, his solution to serious mental health problems is to pray about it. Well, that doesn’t seem to be working. Problems like depression, pedophilia and addiction, need to be treated by mental health professionals who can provide counseling and medication. And in the case of pedophilia, that might not even be enough. Many pedophiles, who have attempted treatment in prison, admit they’re still attracted to children.

Kelly faces a series of seemingly insurmountable problems. However, if he’s ever going to get out of this jam and change his behavior, he needs to start listening to trained professionals who know what they’re doing.

Written by

Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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