By Nicholas Fonseca
May 24, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

ON THE HOT SEAT R&B singer R. Kelly (above, right) on BET Tonight With Ed Gordon, May 8 and 9, discussing allegations that he engaged in — and videotaped — sex acts with a minor.

FORUM Despite gauzy lighting, elegant host Ed Gordon is tough.

PERFORMANCE The natty pinstripe suit — a departure from his topless video appearances — didn’t mask Kelly’s anxiety as he licked his lips and squirmed under Gordon’s tenacious questioning. Like a certain ex-President, he offered cagey denials, repeatedly claimed ”I’m not a perfect guy” and ”I’m not an angel,” and complained about a smear campaign. Again like Bill Clinton, Kelly on night two brought his ”spiritual adviser,” the Reverend James T. Meeks (above, left). When Gordon suggested Meeks’ perfunctory presence might be ”spin control,” Kelly responded unconvincingly, ”I need to be next to God.” Uh-huh.

GRADE Not the world’s greatest. C-