Taraji P Henson and Erykah Badu have hit back at social media criticism over their comments about R Kelly, saying they were taken out of context.
Empire actress Henson recently posted an Instagram story where she looked up the hashtag #MuteRKelly and later looked at one for #MuteHarveyWeinstein, noting there were much more for Kelly, and then typing “Hmmmm”.
People condemned her saying she was defending Kelly, who faces allegations of sexual misconduct involving women and under-age girls.
Others said she should not have used the word “mute” because Weinstein is not a musician and is already facing criminal charges of sexual assault in New York.
The #MuteRKelly hashtag has trended on social media after the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R Kelly began airing in January.
The show drew fresh attention to the sex abuse allegations against Kelly, which have dogged him most of his career. Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has denied abuse.
Henson said during an interview with the Associated Press: “I actually was just making an observation. I never tried to say anything. I was just making an observation, and people know what side I’m on.
“Why would I launch a foundation for mental health in an African-American community for people to go somewhere to talk to somebody about traumatic experiences and then side with the predator?
“Does that make sense? So that backlash pretty much came from people that want to see me fail anyway, because there’s no way, if you follow my career, you got that confused.”
Asked if she was surprised at the backlash, Henson replied: “Sort of, kind of, you know. Humans are fickle. Anything you say or do can be taken totally out of context.”
Singer-turned-actress Badu faced criticism for her comments during a concert in Chicago in which she asked the audience to pray for Kelly, who is from the Windy City.
Critics took that to mean she was defending Kelly, but Badu blamed social media for the backlash.
“There’s no deep meaning to it, you know. Unconditional love is love. Love is love. And I didn’t just pray for R Kelly: I wanted to send energy out to everybody involved, everybody that’s hurting as a result of being hurt, is what I said. And I just thought it was weird that people thought that was weird. Why is that weird that I want love for people?”
Badu, who a few years ago referred to Kelly as her “brother” during an award show, questioned what support she was offering.
“That I support his bad choices? I don’t know him. I don’t know who he is. It’s just my default setting, you know. And social media, as a default setting, is to attack.”
Henson and Badu star together in the upcoming comedy What Men Want, along with Tracy Morgan, Aldis Hodge and Josh Brener from Silicon Valley.