Taraji P. Henson and Erykah Badu, who star together in the upcoming comedy What Men Want, say their comments regarding R. Kelly have been taken totally out of its context.
The Empire actress recently posted an Instagram story where she looked up the hashtag #MuteRKelly and later looked at one for #MuteHarveyWeinstein, noting there were much more for Kelly, and then typed “Hmmmm.”
People condemned her, saying she was defending R. Kelly, who faces allegations of s*xual misconduct involving women and underage girls. Others said she shouldn’t have used the word “mute” because Weinstein is not a musician and is already facing criminal charges of s*xual assault in New York.
The #MuteRKelly hashtag has trended on social media after the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly began airing in January. The show drew fresh attention to the sex abuse allegations against Kelly, which have dogged him most of his career. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has denied allegations of abuse.
“I actually was just making an observation. I never tried to say anything. I was just making an observation, and people know what side I’m on. Why would I launch a foundation for mental health in an African-American community for people to go somewhere to talk to somebody about traumatic experiences and then side with the predator?” Henson asked during an interview with The Associated Press.
“Does that make sense? So that backlash pretty much came from people that want to see me fail anyway, because there’s no way if you follow my career, you got that confused.”
When asked if she was surprised at the backlash, Henson replied: “Sort of, kind of, you know. Humans are fickle,” she said. “Anything you say or do can be taken totally out of context.”
Similarly, singer-turned-actress Erykah Badu faced criticism for her comments made during a concert in Chicago in which she asked the audience to pray for Kelly, who’s from the Windy City. Critics took that to mean she was defending Kelly, but Erykah Badu blamed social media for the backlash.
“There’s no deep meaning to it, you know. Unconditional love is love. Love is love. And I didn’t just pray for R. Kelly: I wanted to send energy out to everybody involved, everybody that’s hurting as a result of being hurt, is what I said. And I just thought it was weird that people thought that was weird. Why is that weird that I want love for people?”
Erykah Badu, who a few years ago referred to Kelly as her “brother” during an awards show, questioned what support she was offering.
“That I support his bad choices? I don’t know him. I don’t know who he is. It’s just my default setting, you know. And social media, as a default setting, is to attack,” she said.
Erykah Badu (@Fatbellybella) spoke exclusively to ESSENCE about the backlash she received after saying that she’d be “praying” for R. Kelly: “I’m used to being misunderstood but I don’t mind being the problem that may lead to the solution at some point.” https://t.co/cdEKmrYuqN pic.twitter.com/5zFrHGKM6g
— ESSENCE (@Essence) January 28, 2019