As Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly has become a cultural phenomenon in the early days of 2019, it’s launched a lot of conversations about a great deal of important issues. Some primary concerns center around the enabling of the singer by the media, the discounting of accusations that come from young black girls, and how wrong it is to refer to the videotape of R. Kelly with underage girls as a “sex tape.”
But one fascinating side note from the documentary is the John Legend angle. Legend, producer Dream Hampton said last week, was the only A-list entertainer who agreed to participate in the documentary. Many others, including Jay-Z and Questlove, declined to. In the film, Legend expressed regret for having worked with Kelly.
But then another narrative emerged about Legend — that he was somehow hypocritical, per the Inquisitr, because the singer had been pictured along with former movie producer — and many-times-accused sexual predator — Harvey Weinstein.
This has been a frequent talking point throughout the #MeToo movement, especially from those with a political axe to grind with certain celebrities — and even with politicians like Hillary Clinton. How can they talk about harassment or misconduct, when they once appeared on the same red carpet, or the same political fundraiser, as one of the greatest harassers of all time?
Legend responded forcefully.
“I took a photo with and worked with Harvey on several occasions before his abuse was known to me and the rest of the world,” Legend wrote on Twitter in response to the questions. “Since his being exposed, his company and career have rightfully been destroyed and he’s been indicted. Sounds like something that should happen to R Kelly.”
This isn’t the first time Legend has been questioned about a Harvey Weinstein picture. Almost exactly a year ago, a “pizzagate” conspiracy theorist named Liz Crokin posted some photos of Legend with Weinstein, per the Philly Voice. Crokin also noted that Legend’s wife, model Chrissy Teigen, had tweeted a pizza emoji alongside their child in a Halloween costume — the aim of which was to imply that the famous couple was part of a pedophilia ring.
“You need to take my family’s name out of your mouth before you get sued,” Legend wrote to Crokin, via Twitter. Crokin was later permanently banned from Twitter.
I took a photo with and worked with Harvey on several occasions before his abuse was known to me and the rest of the world. Since his being exposed, his company and career have rightfully been destroyed and he's been indicted. Sounds like something that should happen to R Kelly https://t.co/LgIOQpEnsP
— John Legend (@johnlegend) January 8, 2019
Indeed, there’s quite a big difference between the two cases. It’s often been alleged that in the entertainment industry, “everyone knew” about Harvey Weinstein, per GQ.
But that’s not quite true. It would be more accurate to say that some people knew some things. Other people had heard rumors about other things. Weinstein’s reputation, prior to the 2017 exposure, was that of a successful movie producer who was also something of a bully — and who often went out of his way to destroy those who crossed him. But he certainly wasn’t widely known as a sexual predator.
R. Kelly, by contrast, had proclivities that were well known to the general public for a very long time. There was literally a videotape of him committing sex crimes with an underage girl, one that was widely viewed and even sold on street corners — and that was in 2002. The singer had a high-profile trial, and that was in 2008. The “everyone knew, all along” talking point wasn’t true of Weinstein, but it was absolutely true of Kelly.
The Legend/Weinstein picture also illustrates another unfortunate tendency, one which forms a key tenet of “pizzagate” and other fact-free conspiracy theories — the idea that if Person A has had their picture taken with Person B, Person A instantly becomes both knowledgeable and complicit in every single bad act ever committed by Person B. This isn’t how it works — red carpet photos are not mind-melds.
John Legend has every reason to regret his past association with R. Kelly, and he has expressed that regret in a way that few other major celebrities have. But he’s in no way a hypocrite for once having had his picture taken with Harvey Weinstein.