The Corner

Culture

Atlantic Writer Compares R. Kelly to Brett Kavanaugh

Grammy-winning R&B star R. Kelly arrives for a child support hearing at a Cook County courthouse in Chicago, Ill., March 6, 2019. (Kamil Krzaczynski/REUTERS)

In an article at The Atlantic this afternoon, staff writer Spencer Kornhaber wrote an article about R. Kelly, who has been accused by nearly a dozen women of criminal sexual abuse, and compared the singer to Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh.

On CBS This Morning, Kelly lost his temper when reporter Gayle King asked him whether he had imprisoned women, as alleged. “I don’t need to. Why would I?” Kelly exclaimed. “How stupid would I be to do that? That’s stupid, guys!” The interview derailed further from there, as Kelly grew increasingly disturbed.

Here’s how Kornhaber casts the moment: “By the time he was up and spitting, he’d taken on the tenor of a child having a tantrum, or Brett Kavanaugh yelling at his confirmation hearing.” More from Kornhaber’s piece:

The closest comparison here might be to the #MeToo target now on the Supreme Court. The substance of what the two men have been accused of differs vastly, but their responses—and the cultural scripts they draw upon—rhyme. Brett Kavanaugh shouted about Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations as being unfair given the life he’s lived, while Kelly argued that his previous acquittal meant the present allegations were also “unfair.” Boys-will-be-boys logic—whether about drunken tomfoolery or sexual conquest—play in both’s defense. Most strikingly, the force and fury of the tactics used by both men make the same dare. For those inclined to believe the accused, passion in the face of prosecution could read as innocence. For those who aren’t, it might look like a predator’s brutality coming out.

The absurdity of this comparison is hinted at even by Kornhaber himself when he notes that “the substance of what the two men have been accused of differs vastly.” But this doesn’t prevent him from completely twisting and miscasting what happened to Kavanaugh, wielding the severe allegations against Kelly — which are well corroborated and already have led to his indictment — as a means of trying to smear the sitting justice.

The anger that Kavanaugh displayed during his second hearing was not because the judge felt the accusations were “unfair given the life he’s lived,” as Kornhaber claims. His self-defense did not rest, in any part, on “boys-will-be-boys logic.” He was outraged because none of the accusations against him ended up having any evidence behind them. Though they appeared both severe and disqualifying at first, Blasey Ford’s allegations ended up being entirely uncorroborated, even after careful investigation. The allegations of Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, meanwhile, had even less backing them up. Kavanaugh was outraged because his name had been dragged through the mud with next to no evidence that he actually had committed any wrongdoing.

Kelly’s anger, by contrast, is in response to the fact that extensive, well-documented evidence of his systematic, heinous abuse of multiple women has surfaced — and that he’s now having to face the consequences.

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