UPDATE [12:40 p.m. ET] – R. Kelly issued a video statement Wednesday morning regarding the allegations that he had bullied an autistic fan named Lenny Felix. As quoted by the Mirror, Kelly said that it’s “totally not true” that he intentionally makes fun of people with the condition, and that he wasn’t aware of Felix’s autism. As he and his friends were “tipsy” at the time of the incident, he thought Felix “appeared drunk,” and was under the impression that he was merely joking with the fan like he does with others.
Original Report Below:
R. Kelly is being accused of bullying an autistic fan who approached him outside a nightclub, forcing the young man to sing one of his signature songs and mocking him for his efforts by suggesting that he might be high on the painkilling drug Percocet.
According to a report from TMZ[WARNING: video contains NSFW language], the incident happened when a fan identified as 27-year-old Lenny Felix spotted Kelly outside a Hollywood club. In a video reportedly taken and posted by the veteran R&B singer, Felix appeared to be thrilled to have bumped into a singer he recognized, as he excitedly began relating the story of how he became a music lover. Lenny explained that he had only started seriously listening to music about six or seven years ago, as he spent most of his childhood playing video games.
After listening to his story, R. Kelly and his entourage were heard on the video strongly urging Felix to sing a song, despite his insistence that he doesn’t know how to sing. Lenny soon relented, singing the chorus of Kelly’s 1996 hit, “I Believe I Can Fly.”
R. Kelly then took over, looking into the camera and altering the lyrics of what is arguably his most famous recording. He proceeded to sing his own version of the song’s chorus, as his friends were heard laughing in the background.
“I believe that you high / I believe that you touchin’ the sky / Smoking on that Percocet / [N-word] when you gonna tell me what’s next?”
R. Kelly Accuses Autistic Fan of 'Smoking Percocet' https://t.co/VHKhcl2f0s
— Don Johnson (@viralhoneybuzz) November 15, 2017
Although Lenny Felix wasn’t seen or heard on the video after his attempt to sing “I Believe I Can Fly,” TMZ cited Lenny’s family, who accused R. Kelly of bullying the young man by forcing him to sing and ridiculing him afterward. With Lenny reportedly unsure whether Kelly thought he was “dumb” or if he was being made fun of, his mother told TMZ that the Felix family has already met with a lawyer, hinting that they might be considering filing a lawsuit against the singer.
As detailed in a 2015 Hollywood Reporter article, Lenny Felix had previously appeared in a documentary called Autism in Love, which tells the story of four people with autism spectrum disorder and how they search for romantic relationships or manage the ones they already have. Felix also has his own YouTube channel, which includes a video message to fans who had gotten to know him in Autism in Love.
If R. Kelly gets sued for bullying one of his fans, it won’t be the first time in recent years that a celebrity got hit with a lawsuit for ridiculing people with certain illnesses or disorders. In August 2014, a Michigan man named Jahmel Binion sued NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, rapper Waka Flocka Flame, and then-Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke for mocking his ectodermal dysplasia on social media. According to the New York Daily News, the controversy started earlier that year, when O’Neal shared an Instagram photo where he made a mocking face and posed next to an image of Binion, whose condition affects his hair and teeth.
Aside from the new claims of bullying, R. Kelly has also spent a good part of the year dealing with various allegations of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse against various women. Most recently, a woman named Kitti Jones spoke to Rolling Stone’s Jason Newman, detailing numerous incidents of purported verbal and physical abuse and a set of “draconian” rules she had to follow during her two-year relationship with Kelly. Both Kelly and a longtime friend and colleague of his denied the allegations to Rolling Stone.
As of this writing, R. Kelly has yet to comment on the alleged bullying incident.
[Featured Image by Mike Pont/Getty Images]