Two alleged victims of R. Kelly went on national television Thursday morning to insist, with anger and tears, that they were fine. Azriel Clary, 21, and Joycelyn Savage, 23—whose families have not been able to see them for years—sat with CBS News’s Gayle King and said that the R&B star has not been holding them against their will. They were, they insisted, in healthy relationships with him. If they were victims, they were victims of their own parents, who had tried to extort Kelly. “This is all fucking lies for money,” Clary said. “And if you can’t see that, you’re ignorant and you’re stupid.”
What a brain-bendingly sad situation. Kelly, Clary, and Savage assert a somewhat different set of facts from the ones that Kelly’s accusers do. But there’s no disagreement about some fundamental, and wild, realities of the matter. Kelly, 52, really has been living with multiple women who are decades younger than he is. They really are not in touch with their families. The debate that’s playing out on CBS is over whether this is a problem.
The parents of Savage and Clary worry that their daughters are ensnared in the same reported “sex cult” that multiple other women have spoken about suffering through. In the Surviving R. Kelly documentary that aired on Lifetime in January, alleged victims of Kelly, as well as one former employee of his, depict Kelly as a tyrant, enforcing harsh and dehumanizing rules on the women he seduced. They allegedly couldn’t eat, travel, or go to the bathroom without Kelly’s say-so. They supposedly were forbidden to talk to their families, friends, or even other women in Kelly’s entourage. Offending Kelly could mean a slap or a beating, some of the women have said. Or it could mean being confined to a room for days without food.
WATCH: The two young women who live with R. Kelly, Azriel Clary and Joycelyn Savage, speak with @GayleKing about their relationship with the R&B singer and their estranged relationship with their parents, who allege Kelly has brainwashed their daughters https://t.co/Wu3mtXCare pic.twitter.com/qF2J5dIiLZ— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) March 6, 2019
Kelly, in the same interview in which he went berserk while pleading innocence (CBS has been dribbling out footage over days, and the full interview will finally be aired Friday night), dismissed as “stupid” the notion that he was a hostage-taker. In Thursday’s broadcast, Clary and Savage did not discuss the alleged “cult” rules, but they did say they were in healthy relationships with Kelly. To hear all three of them tell it, offenses by their parents are the reasons that these women have been out of touch with their families for years. (Kelly’s camp is now reportedly arranging a limited meet-up between Savage and her family; this week, she and her family had a taped phone call in which she mostly just repeated one line about being happy where she was.)