Writer tenacious in R. Kelly coverage that has spanned years
CHICAGO (AP) — Music writer Jim DeRogatis introduced himself to R. Kelly’s attorney after posing a question at a press conference following the R&B star’s court appearance Saturday by saying, “I’m the one you ignore.”
The longtime chronicler of Kelly took issue with defense attorney Steve Greenberg’s suggestion that one of Kelly’s accusers told authorities that she lied about her age. Kelly is charged with sexually abusing four people, including three minors.
“Don’t misquote a victim, Mr. Greenberg!” DeRogatis yelled during a testy exchange.
The Chicago music critic has written extensively about Kelly and pushed harder than anybody on the singer’s saga, doggedly pursuing numerous allegations of misconduct against the 52-year-old Grammy winner since 2000. He was there Friday when Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced the 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse against Kelly.
Despite the charges, DeRogatis doesn’t plan to let up. His memory and list of potential victims is far longer than most.
“I think the big story that is going to get lost amid the insanity until everybody steps back is: 30 years,” DeRogatis told The Associated Press after Kelly was charged, pointing out that he wrote a story in December of 2000 about allegations that went back many years. “And that’s a long time for everything — music industry, journalists, most of all the courts to have failed. Most of all, the courts.”
In 2002, while working at the Chicago Sun-Times, DeRogatis anonymously received a sex tape in the mail that led to child pornography charges against Kelly. DeRogatis was named a witness in the 2008 trial, in which Kelly was acquitted.
He continued his intense coverage of Kelly, writing pieces for media outlets including BuzzFeed News and The New Yorker.
DeRogatis, who has a book about Kelly coming out in June, is so intertwined with Kelly’s story that the singer called him out last year in a song called “I Admit”: “To Jim DeRogatis, whatever your name is/You been tryna destroy me for 25 whole years.”
The 19-minute tune, in which Kelly describes himself as “so falsely accused” but also sings, “I admit I have made some mistakes/And I have some imperfect ways,” did nothing to dissuade DeRogatis. After the song’s release, DeRogatis put out a statement, saying: “BuzzFeed News stands by every word we’ve reported in the last year, just as The Chicago Sun-Times has stood by every word I reported there since the first story Abdon Pallasch and I broke in December 2000.”
Pallasch, who worked with DeRogatis on the Kelly story until the 2008 trial, described his former reporting partner as “the driving force” of the coverage. He sat alongside DeRogatis at Friday’s news conference announcing Kelly’s charges, and said they told each other, “About time.”
“He had been hearing about this story and really was motivated by the stories of the victims,” said Pallasch, who left the Sun-Times in 2012 but regularly talks with DeRogatis and “encourages him.” ″Every time another girl would call him and say, ‘Here’s what R. Kelly did to me,’ it would motivate him to dig deeper and try harder, and I always admired the tenacity with which he stuck with this story.
“Even after the acquittal, as he’s getting more calls from more victims, he wasn’t giving up on the story,” Pallasch added. “He wasn’t giving up on the girls.”
DeRogatis exhibited that tenacity Saturday when snapping back at Kelly’s attorney, Greenberg, who implied the writer was just out to sell “lots of books.”
“I don’t give a (expletive) about selling a single book,” DeRogatis said at the press conference. “You just called a victim who cried in court a liar.”
In an interview with Variety last July, DeRogatis said he continues to get calls weekly from sources and feels obligated to chase those tips.
“You’re not a journalist or a human being if you get those calls and do not do your job,” he told Variety.
DeRogatis, who’s an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, said in the interview that his work on the Kelly story contributed to his marriage ending and other personal struggles. But, he said: “What I’ve endured over 18 years is nothing compared to the stories I’ve heard from young women who had relationships with him that left them devastated, destroyed their families and their lives to the point of attempting suicide.”
Kelly, through his lawyers, has consistently denied any sexual misconduct.
DeRogatis was interviewed last month by National Public Radio following the airing of the multipart Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which revisited old allegations and brought new ones into the spotlight. It followed last year’s BBC documentary that alleged the singer had held women against their will and was running a “sex cult.”
DeRogatis, who co-hosts a weekly public radio show called “Sound Opinions,” said the documentaries and other efforts bringing attention to the allegations against Kelly signal progress. But he said more can be done.
He told the AP that he has the names of four dozen women who allege they’re victims of Kelly, and he believes the investigation of the singer should be much broader in scope. He has reported that federal authorities in New York are investigating Kelly. The AP has been unable to confirm his report.
“The travesty is that it’s taken almost 30 years,” DeRogatis said.
Karoub reported from Detroit.
Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the investigations into R. Kelly.