Tonight, Lifetime begins airing a three-part docuseries called Surviving R. Kelly, but as TMZ reports, Kelly’s lawyer is threatening to sue.
In a letter obtained by TMZ, Kelly’s lawyer Brian Nix warned the network that Surviving R. Kelly is “packed with lies.” Nix threatened to file a federal lawsuit today (the series’s premiere day) if the network doesn’t concede.
Lifetime’s series will feature people formerly from Kelly’s inner circle coming forward with new allegations of the singer’s sexual, mental and physical abuse. Surviving R. Kelly will air in six episodes over three days, and will include interviews with Kelly’s accusers, journalists and even members of his own family. Also included are descriptions of Kelly’s alleged sexual relationship with an under-aged Aaliyah, reports that he preyed on teen girls, and the alleged abuse Kelly inflicted on several young women.
The network’s official description reads, “With over 50 interviews including civil rights activist Tarana Burke, musicians John Legend and Sparkle, talk-show host and former DJ Wendy Williams, ex-wife Andrea Kelly, ex-girlfriend Kitti Jones, brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly, and many others, the true story of R. Kelly’s controversial past will be revealed beginning in 1970 through present day, shedding light on the R&B star whose history of alleged abuse of underage African American girls has, until recently, been largely ignored by mainstream media.”
Lifetime responded to Kelly’s lawsuit threat telling TMZ the documentary will air and that the network “has always been a brand that champions women’s stories.”
In December, a screening of the series was canceled after an anonymous gun threat was made on the theater. The screening was to be followed by a Q&A session with several of the accusers. “Someone that would want to do that is obviously trying to cover the truth,” accuser Lizzette Martinez told Jezebel after the event’s cancellation. “We’re standing together as survivors and we will not back down.”
Kelly is refuting all their claims, stating that the documentary subjects have made false allegations in order to become famous. Kelly claims to have two audio recordings proving that the network knew “some of the girls are lying, but that the budget was too high to turn back now.”
Since 1994, Kelly has faced a slew of sexual misconduct allegations, which Vox reported in a single timeline. Many of these accusations stem from Kelly’s contact with minors and also the many women who claimed abuse. Some of these women will appear in the three-part documentary that aims to paint the singer as a sex-crazed and abusive cult leader.
Aaliyah’s mother Diane Haughton jumped in to comment on the “lies and fabrications” surrounding her daughter’s relationship with Kelly. In a statement to E! News, Haughton said:
The woman and so-called back up singer that describes seeing, meeting or ever breathing the same air as my daughter, Aaliyah, is lying and is a liar. My husband and I were always on tour with her and at interviews and every place she went throughout her entire career. Whoever this woman is, I have never seen her before anywhere on planet earth, until now…My daughter only wanted to realize her dream of sharing her talent with the world, and give her all performing on stage and in front of the camera for the fans she adored so much. She realized that dream, thanks to those true fans who still love and support her legacy unconditionally to this day. Shame on all those involved in this project who thought it kosher to drag Aaliyah’s name into a situation that has nothing to do with her today. Once again, this will not be tolerated.
Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly premieres tonight at 9 p.m. with two episodes. The series continues Friday and Saturday nights at 9 p.m. with two additional hours each night.