News of pop star R. Kelly’s reported sexual relationships with underage girls prompted outrage Thursday from radio listeners.
Some were angry at Kelly. Others blamed the girls. Some callers and hosts heaped criticism on the Sun-Times for reporting the story.
“I expected more of a consensus on the fact that this is wrong, whenever a grown man is involved with teenage girls, especially when someone has a pattern that suggests they have a problem and he needs help,” said Monique Carradine, host of “Mo in the Midday” on WVON-AM (1450).
Carradine found some of that sentiment, but she also heard tolerance for Kelly.
“It was surprising that many of the men said the young ladies bear some of the responsibility in this and they said that if (underage girls) come on to him, nature take its course,” she said. “Women said he should be prosecuted and that charges need to be brought against him.”
The Sun-Times reported Thursday that Kelly has had sexual relationships with at least two 15-year-olds and one 16-year-old. Sources close to him say he continues to sleep with minors, even now that he is married and has children.
Chicago police have twice in the last year investigated charges that he was having sex with a minor girl but dropped the investigation because the girl would not cooperate.
“I think it’s pretty shocking. I think most listeners don’t know,” said WLS-AM (890) talk show host Roe Conn.
Kelly and his full band are set to headline tonight at the United Center as part of the sold-out Big Jam Christmas concert sponsored by WGCI-FM (107.5).
Kelly’s only reaction to Thursday’s story came from his spokeswoman Regina Daniels, who also serves as publicist for WGCI and the concert.
“It saddens me that anyone would write anything like that,” she said.
“Crazy” Howard McGee’s WGCI morning show stressed that the lawsuit against Kelly was “old news” and the charges of sex with underage girls are “only allegations.” The show also urged listeners to “pray for Brother Robert.”
“The bottom line is I’m basically concentrating on running a station that plays urban music and R. Kelly is just incredibly major on WGCI” and also on WVAZ-FM (102.7), said Elroy Smith, the program director for both stations. Kelly’s single “I Wish” is the No. 1 most-requested song on WGCI’s play list.
“If this behavior is true, we don’t condone it,” said Todd Cavanah, program manager for WBBM-FM (96.3-FM), whose Halloween concert Kelly headlined. “However, we can’t control what artists do in their personal lives. We play hit songs from hit artists that our audience likes, and R. Kelly is one of them.”
Kelly and his fans have several Web sites offering up-to-date news on the star. But none carried the Sun-Times story Thursday.
Wayne Williams, a local executive with Jive Records and the man who signed Kelly to the label, said he has not seen the story and has no comment.
“Robert Kelly has made an important impact in the Chicago music community and we trust that the current challenges which he faces will be resolved expeditiously,” said Griff Morris, regional director of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which presented the singer with one of its first Legacy Awards for philanthropic efforts on behalf of the community a few months ago.