ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua2019 certainly saw its fair share of scandals. From Jussie Smollett‘s alleged hate crime hoax to the arrest of R. Kelly — who is currently behind bars and facing multiple charges in three states over his alleged sexual abuse of women and girls — it’s been a year of extreme highs and unbelievable lows for some celebrities.
Here’s a round up of some of the more notorious scandals in 2019.
On January 29, Smollett told police he was attacked near his Chicago apartment by two masked white men who poured an “unknown chemical substance on him,” wrapped a rope around his neck and shouted racial and homophobic slurs. Smollett later recounted his story to Good Morning America‘s Robin Robert’s telling her he had no reason to lie about his attack.
Police eventually questioned two Nigerian brothers in connection to the alleged attack, who told authorities Smollett allegedly paid them to help stage the crime.
Smollett was later indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts, including felony disorderly conduct, in relation to filing a false report. Those charges were ultimately dropped in favor of an “alternative resolution” that involved Smollett performing community service and forfeiting the remainder of his $100,000 bond to Cook County.
Smollett’s attorneys denied that Smollett orchestrated and planned a fake attack and admonished the police department for continuing to imply that Smollett was guilty after the charges were dropped, according to the court documents.
However, with all the drama surrounding Smollett, Empire creator Lee Daniels confirmed in June that Smollett would not return as Jamal Lyon for the show’s sixth and final season.
In November, Smollett filed a counter lawsuit against the city of Chicago. It was in response to a lawsuit the city filed against him in April, requesting $130,000 in civil penalties, damages and attorney’s fees and costs arising from Smollett’s “false statements.”
The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial and asking that Smollett be awarded compensatory and punitive damages, the amount of which will be determined at trial.
After Liftetime aired the explosive docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, which scored big ratings as it chronicled the decades-long sexual abuse claims against the embattled singer, the fallout was swift.
Kelly was dropped from his label, Sony’s RCA Records; he was no longer welcome in the city of Philadelphia, following an unanimous decision by the City Council to pass a “Mute R. Kelly” bill; his international tour was cancelled; and he was asked to vacate his Chicago studio.
In February, Kelly turned himself in to Chicago police after being charged with 10 counts of felony criminal sexual abuse involving four alleged victims. He later made bail, but was jailed again in March for unpaid back child support. During that time, Kelly spoke to CBS’ Gayle King about the charges in an often heated interview during which he emphatically rejected claims of sexual misconduct and charges of aggravated sexual abuse, saying the rumors were ridiculous and “not true.”
Then in May, Kelly was charged with with 11 new counts of sex assault and sex abuse for actions that allegedly took place in January 2010. In July, Kelly was arrested in Chicago on a 13-count indictment that included charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice.
Kelly, who’s still currently behind bars in Chicago, faces a combined 18 counts in federal indictments in Chicago and New York City, including charges of child pornography, enticing a minor into illegal sexual activity and conspiracy to obstruct justice by attempting to pay off and intimidate witnesses.
A trial in the federal case in Chicago is scheduled to begin April 27, 2020. Meanwhile, Kelly’s New York case has been set for May 18, 2020. The singer is also facing abuse-related charges in Cook County, Illinois and Hennepin County, Minnesota.
T.I. sparked social media outrage when he revealed that he attended his daughter Deyjah‘s annual OGBYN visits to verify she’s still a virgin. In a now deleted episode of the Ladies Like Us podcast, T.I. told the hosts that he took this daughter, who now 18, to the gyno so he could “make sure her hymen is still intact.”
Soon after his interview went viral, fans took the Grand Hustle CEO to task. “This is beyond disgusting and low-key Rapey,” one person tweeted. “Why is he this invested in her sexual life? I’d understand going with her if he wanted to make sure his daughter was healthy but this is just… Wrong and abusive.”
Many people called T.I. out for applying a double standard.
“Like his sons aren’t but he’s not making such a big deal about it. And she’s 18. An adult, she should control her own life and private matters,” a person commented.
To help clear his name, T.I. subsequently spoke with Jada Pinkett Smith on her Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk, to discuss his controversial comments.
According to T.I., his intentions were “terribly misconstrued and misconceived.” He explained his comments referred to when Deyjah was 16 years old, and now that she’s 18, he said he no longer joins her for gynecologist visits.
T.I., who was joined by his wife, Tiny Harris, did apologize to his daughter for his comments, explaining that he was concerned about his daughter’s sex life. “I’m talking about all of the little slimy, grimy, chubby fingered little boys who want to just come in and defile [Deyjah],” he said.
However, because of T.I.’s comments, New York state lawmakers are now considering banning doctors from performing so-called virginity testing.
After it was announced in November that Gabrielle Union would would not be returning as judge for America’s Got Talent’s upcoming 2020 season, along with judge Julianne Hough, Variety reported Union was actually fired after she expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time on set.
One of those situations was said to have involved comedian Jay Leno, who reportedly joked that the dogs on set were something you’d find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.” Another incident involved a performer who impersonated Beyoncé and emerged with black hands. In both cases, those segments were deleted from the show.
Additionally, Variety reports that Union and Hough often received “excessive notes” on their appearance, including alleged notes from producers that Union’s frequently-changing hairstyles were reportedly “too black” for AGT‘s audience.
Union‘s husband Dwyane Wade seeminigly confirmed the information a tweet. “So when i got the news that my wife was being fired — my first question was obviously why!? I am still waiting on a good answer to that question,” Wade tweeted.” But if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her you know she’s an advocate for our community and culture.”
Then, after a full week of support from celebrity friends, including the likes of Viola Davis and Ellen Pompeo, Union tweeted a message of “gratitude” to those who had her back.
Just days after the social media upswell of support for Union, America’s Got Talent‘s producers released a statement about the issue, declaring, “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture.”
They also added that they’re “working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”
Additionally, SAG-AFTRA, the union for TV, film and voice performers, says they’re investigating Union’s claims.
Meanwhile, Crews, Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel are all expected to return to AGT.
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