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Entertainment Weekly

Music

Erykah Badu defends offering 'prayer' for R. Kelly: 'I love you. Unconditionally'

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Erykah Badu is staying true to her promise to always see the good in people.

The singer took a moment during her show at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom on Saturday to offer a prayer for disgraced R&B star R. Kelly, stunning her own audience with her remarks, according to a video obtained by TMZ.

“I hope he sees the light of day if he’s done all those things that we’ve seen on TV and heard those ladies talk about,” she says in the video. “I hope he sees the light of day and comes forward.”

Paul R. Giunta/FilmMagic

Amid growing boos, Badu continued, “But y’all say ‘f— it!’ See, that’s not love. That’s not unconditional. But what if one of the people that was assaulted by R. Kelly grows up to be an offender, we gonna crucify them? I mean how do we do this? Just something to think about.”

Facing criticism for her comments after the show on social media, Badu attempted to clarify her views on R. Kelly in a tweet Sunday. Seemingly addressing R. Kelly directly, she said, “I love you. Unconditionally. That doesn’t mean I support your poor choices. I want healing for you and anyone you have hurt as a result of you being hurt. Is that strange to you? That’s all I’ve ever said. Anything else has been fabricated or taken out of context.”

Badu’s remarks come after the airing of the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, which chronicles years of abuse and pedophilia claims against the R&B singer. The six-part series broke ratings records for Lifetime when the first episode premiered on Jan. 3.

Featuring more than 50 interviews, the project dives into Kelly’s controversial history, including the infamous videotape widely circulated in 2002 that appeared to show him urinating on an underage girl. Though both Kelly and his alleged victim denied they were portrayed in the tape, the singer was charged with possession of child pornography. In the end, a jury found him not guilty. Numerous women have since come forward, all with similar claims of physical abuse.

This isn’t the first time Badu has come under criticism for seeing the best in the controversial figures.

In a wide-ranging 2018 interview with Vulture, the singer says she “saw something good in Hitler” and wonders why she should be angry with Cosby, who has been accused by multiple women of drugging and sexually assaulting them.

When asked by writer David Marchese about separating art from the artist, with Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby used as examples, Badu opined, “I don’t want to get scared into not thinking for myself. I weigh everything. Even what you just asked me, I would have to really think about it and know the facts in each of those situations before I made a judgment. Because I love Bill Cosby, and I love what he’s done for the world. But if he’s sick, why would I be angry with him? The people who got hurt, I feel so bad for them. I want them to feel better, too. But sick people do evil things; hurt people hurt people.”

Calling herself an “empath” and “humanist,” Badu went on to say, “I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler.” Upon being asked to elaborate, she responded, “I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.” Marchese pushed Badu on the statement, causing her to relent that “[Hitler] was a terrible painter.”

“Poor thing,” she continued. “He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, Mars, I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.”

The singer clapped back to the groundswell on Twitter, writing, “People are in real pain. So I understand why my ‘good’ intent was misconstrued as ‘bad’. In trying to express a point, I used 1 of the worst examples possible, Not to support the cruel actions of an unwell, psychopathic Adolf Hitler, but to only exaggerate a show of compassion. Either U read the entire VULTURE interview & U understood the message of compassion CLEARLY. OR U only read the selective, out of context Headlines, & were drawn in2 the whirlpool of collective emotional grief. I don’t want 2 force U 2understand the way I love. I’m hopeful tho.”

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