Vinay Menon: R. Kelly’s CBS This Morning interview offers a lesson in how not to prove your innocence

Vinay Menon: R. Kelly’s CBS This Morning interview offers a lesson in how not to prove your innocence
As a legal strategy, this is not wise. But after he was charged last month with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse — three of the four victims were allegedly under the age of 17 — Kelly is trying to clear his name in the court of public opinion before his real trial and the real possibility of jail.

R. Kelly raged while CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King sat with Zen tranquility, writes Vinay Menon.  (JOHN PAUL FILO / CBS)

Let the record show: Mr. Kelly should not be testifying on his behalf.

There are many “tells” behavioural experts can spot when someone is lying. Shifty eyes. Chin stroking. Chest pounding. Forehead rubbing. Finger wagging. Long pauses. Jumbled syntax. Mood swings. Telling interjections. Frantic gesturing. Feigned victimization. Heartbroken posturing. Emphatic repetition.

Kelly showcased all of this and more on Wednesday when CBS This Morning landed the coveted first interview since his arrest.

“I’m very tired of all the lies,” Kelly declared, looking more desperate than tired.

This was the dominant theme. Anyone accusing him of wrongdoing — including dozens of women over decades — is lying. He is innocent! He is the real victim here! He’s never had carnal relations with an underage girl, despite any sex tape that may exist. He’s not some depraved cult leader who brainwashes young girls into becoming sex slaves he can humiliate and command.

“I don’t even really know what a cult is,” said Kelly. “But I know I don’t have one.”

How do you know you don’t have something you don’t know?

This was a big problem throughout the interview: when asked about specifics, Kelly resorted to absolute denial. If Gayle King had asked him what he had for breakfast, he would have denied that food exists. He dodged his own alleged actions by focusing on the motivation of his accusers. The women accusing Kelly of abusive behaviour — of controlling when they eat, who they talk to, where they can get dressed, when they can use the bathroom — are motivated by fame and money.

At one point, King referred to the recent Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which painted a devastating portrait of the R&B singer as a predator who has targeted vulnerable and underage girls for years.

“They was describing Lucifer,” said Kelly. “I’m not Lucifer.”

“Why would all these women tell these different stories about you if they were not true?” asked King. “And they don’t know each other. That defies logic to me.”

“Until you hear the explanation,” replied Kelly, adopting a heartbroken posture and offering a shopworn I’m-a-celebrity-getting-smeared-by-false-rumours explanation.
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