Gayle King calls the R. Kelly verdict “justice.”
The CBS Mornings anchor, whose March 2019 interview with the singer went viral, spoke to Bustle about Kelly’s Sept. 27 conviction on all charges, including one count of racketeering and eight of violating the Mann Act, an interstate anti-sex trafficking law. The “Bump ‘n Grind” singer, 54, faces 10 years to life in prison for physically and sexually abusing women and minors over a period of several decades.
“Justice,” King said was her immediate reaction to the verdict. “That’s what I thought.”
The newswoman continued, “The judge said some of the evidence was so disgusting and despicable that they wouldn’t even allow it to be played in court. Let’s just say part of the evidence involved feces. Let’s just say that. It was so stomach-churning.”
King’s interview with Kelly (real name: Robert Sylvester Kelly) two years ago was truly wild to watch. The R&B star insisted he was not “a monster” amid mounting allegations. He screamed, he cried, he denied ever having sex with a minor — and then made two women living with him, Joycelyn Savage and Azriel Clary, defend him in the interview.
King told Bustle her heart goes out to the survivors.
“My heart aches for them because I know how painful this has been,” King said. “To us, this is a news story, but for them, this is life. And I feel sorry that for so many women, it took this long.”
King also said that after the verdict was announced, she checked in on Clary, as well as Dream Hampton, the executive producer of Surviving R. Kelly, a Lifetime documentary which was key to bringing awareness to the allegations against the singer.
Clary, a survivor who ended her relationship with Kelly a few months after the interview and later testified against him in court, appeared on CBS Mornings after the verdict. She told King that Kelly coached her on what to say during the 2019 interview, which she gave when she was 21. She said Kelly’s theatrics were all part of his plan to dismiss the allegations against him.
“For five years, since I was 17, I didn’t have any relationships with any other women except for the women that he had been intimate with,” Clary said. “When I did that interview with you, I instantly regretted immediately how I reacted.” Clary said it was a wake-up call and made her ask: “‘Why am I acting like this? Why am I putting myself through all of this misery? Why am I exploiting myself for a man who has me in this position in the first place, you know?’ And I really had to come to terms and, you know, realize that it wasn’t love. Love doesn’t hurt, you know?”
In Clary’s court testimony, she said he began sexually abusing her when she was 17 years old. At the time, Kelly had four other women living with him, and his assistants and security guards normalized the situation.
Even some of Clary’s testimony was so graphic that the judge didn’t allow it to be released to the public.
The court also heard how Kelly had illegally obtained paperwork to marry singer Aaliyah when she was 15 in 1994. The marriage was annulled months later. She died seven years later in a plane crash.
For more than two decades, Kelly faced sexual abuse allegations, but the September conviction marked the first time he was held liable. His victims, Black women, were sometimes picked from his concert audiences. Some are aspiring singers and were lured with offers to help launch their music careers. However, he soon controlled them — from what they wore to when they ate or used the bathroom.
Some 11 accusers testified in court, leveling accusations of sexual abuse, assault, claiming he knowingly transmitted sexually transmitted diseases to them, among many other claims.
Kelly will be sentenced May 4, 2022. Separately, he faces a trial in Chicago on child pornography, obstruction of justice and sexual abuse charges. He also faces local charges in Minnesota.