The singer's body language, tone, even some of the exact words he used felt eerily familiar to anyone who saw the Kavanaugh hearing.

By Laura Bassett
Mar 06, 2019 @ 4:45 pm
Getty Images, CBS

America watched a grown man scream and cry and completely disassemble on national television Wednesday morning over the idea that he — a powerful 52-year-old celebrity — may now have to face a consequence for his alleged sexual abuse of teenage girls dating back to the ‘90s.

Journalist Gayle King interviewed an unhinged R. Kelly on CBS This Morning, confronting him about the allegations of physical, emotional and sexual violence that have been piling up against him for decades. Kelly spent the interview lashing out at King, interrupting her, weeping, and even jumping out of his chair at one point as he vehemently denied the charges she calmly outlined against him.

“Stop it. You all quit playing!” Kelly shouted at King and the camera through a wobbly voice. “Quit playing! I didn’t do this stuff! This is not me! I’m fighting for my f—ing life! Y’all killing me with this sh—! I gave you 30 years of my f—ing career!”  

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Kelly faces up to 70 years in prison for allegedly sexually abusing four women beginning in 1998, three of whom were underage at the time. He pleaded “not guilty” in February to 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and told King all the women are lying to try and ruin him.

“I have been assassinated,” he shrieked. “I have been buried alive.”

Kelly’s tone — even specific words — felt eerily familiar to any of the 20 million people who watched Brett Kavanaugh melt down before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September when confronted with a decades-old sexual assault allegation. Both men alternated between desperate tears and indignant rage, painting themselves as the true victims of a conspiracy to curtail their power and snatch away the privilege and immunity they feel they are owed as wealthy, successful public figures.

Kavanaugh, too, called himself the victim of a “grotesque and coordinated character assassination” and lamented that his good name had been “permanently destroyed” after a trembling Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave a detailed account to senators of the time Kavanaugh allegedly cupped his hand over her mouth and tried to rape her when they were both in high school.

Ironically, in trying to defend themselves, both Kelly and Kavanaugh exhibited classic abusive behavior. Kavanaugh contorted his face into a snarl and raised his voice to a threatening boom in a Senate hearing room. Kelly repeatedly punched his fist into his hand, stood up hovering over the woman interviewing him as she tried to de-escalate the situation. They both lashed out and played the victim. They both gaslighted, insisting that the viewers must be crazy for even entertaining the idea that they had perpetrated any abuse.

“Why would I… That’s stupid!” Kelly admonished King. “Use your common sense!”

Kavanaugh attributed the accusation against him to “revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups,” and then threatened that the whole nation would face consequences for his suffering.

"You sowed the wind for decades to come," he warned Democratic senators. "The whole country will reap the whirlwind.”

For Kavanaugh, the display of menacing rage seems to have worked, convincing enough people of his credibility and victimhood that he escaped any real consequences. Kelly, who is awaiting trial, seems to have followed the same playbook, hoping the sheer power of his male rage and the intensity of his reaction might be enough to exonerate him. But he nearly incriminated himself with his own erratic behavior.

VIDEO: Twitter is Impressed with How Gayle King Handled R. Kelly's Meltdown

“I’m trying to have a relationship with my kids! And I can’t do it!” he shouted. “Y’all just don’t want to believe the truth! You don’t want to believe it!”

RELATED: R. Kelly Came for Lady Gaga in His Interview with Gayle King

It’s clear why Kavanaugh and Kelly are so indignant. Donald Trump ascended to the presidency after being accused by a dozen women of sexual harassment and assault and even bragging about it on tape. Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby got away with raping women for decades before the #MeToo movement started to hold them and others accountable. It was true until now that a Yale Law degree, or enough money, or enough Billboard number-one hits could innocculate a man against a sexual assault accusation.

Kelly’s and Kavanaugh’s public meltdowns are the death rattle of a long-enjoyed sense of entitlement. Powerful men are getting fired now and sent to prison, or at least having to publicly confront the accusations against them. Women less powerful than them are being believed.  

Of course, it still helps to be white. While men like Kavanaugh have long been given the benefit of the doubt against their female accusers, black men have their own separate history of being falsley accused of various crimes and jailed (or worse) for no reason. In a country grappling with racism, Kelly can’t as easily rant and rave on national television and garner the same kind of sympathy that some felt for Brett Kavanaugh.

After all, Kavanaugh ascended to the highest court in the land just a week after Blasey Ford’s emotional testimony against him. The difference for Kelly is that he’s probably heading to jail.

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