R. Kelly‘s lawyers have reportedly sent Lifetime a letter threatening a lawsuit if their documentary series Surviving R. Kelly airs, according to Fader. The series is set to premiere on Thursday, January 3.
In the letter, Brian Nix, Kelly’s attorney, claims that the documentary defames and makes false claims about the singer. Nix is threatening to file a federal lawsuit against Lifetime if the program airs.
Surviving R. Kelly features interviews with women who allege that they were physically and mentally abused by Kelly. Kelly is claiming that the women featured in the documentary are lying in order to become famous.
In 2017, a Buzzfeed investigation alleged that Kelly was abusing and imprisoning women in a “sex cult.” Kelly has since repeatedly denied the claims.
The story was written by Jim Derogatis, who has been working on exposing Kelly since 2002, when he broke the story that there was a tape of Kelly urinating on an underage girl. Kelly was indicted on 22 counts of child pornography, but was ultimately found not guilty. Infamously, Kelly married 15 year old Aaliyah, with the marriage certificate falsely stating that she was 18.
Surviving R. Kelly contains interviews with Kitti Jones and Kelly’s ex wife Andrea, but many celebrities opted not to appear in the documentary, according to Pitchfork. Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and Dave Chappelle, all of whom have worked with Kelly, declined to appear. Questlove, Mary J. Blige, and Lil Kim also declined.
“I mean, most people just don’t want to touch it,” executive producer dream hampton said. “I remember [Questlove] was like, ‘I would do anything for you but I can’t do this.’ It’s not because they support him, it’s because it’s so messy and muddy. It’s that turning away that has allowed this to go on.”
Questlove later responded via Twitter, stating that he supports the documentary, but didn’t want to be involved. “I always thought Kels was trash,” he wrote. “My reason for declining the RKelly docu that I support 10000000 percent is I didn’t wanna be in the ‘good times’ portion of the doc, like stanning for his ‘genius.’ I was asked to talk about his genius. I do not nor have I EVER stanned for him.”
Only two musicians participated in Surviving R. Kelly: John Legend, and Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, who had testified against Kelly in 2008.
“That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me,” hampton said.