Callout culture

Here’s what 26 publicists said when asked about BuzzFeed’s story asking publicists about R. Kelly

A meaningless journalistic exercise.
Callout culture

Here’s what 26 publicists said when asked about BuzzFeed’s story asking publicists about R. Kelly

A meaningless journalistic exercise.

After an explosive investigative report revealed that R. Kelly is trapping women in an abusive cult, BuzzFeed yesterday asked the representatives of 43 of R. Kelly’s former collaborators, including Chance the Rapper, Lady Gaga, and Usher, if they would work with the artist again. The site published the responses in an article titled “Here’s What 43 of R. Kelly’s Former Collaborators Said When Asked If They’d Work With Him Again.”

Unsurprisingly, 34 of the representatives did not respond to BuzzFeed’s request for comment. Six had no comment. Three said their client could not be reached.

BuzzFeed pulled this same gimmick last year with Dr. Luke, asking the representatives of 20 pop stars if they would work with the producer again in response to abuse allegations from the singer Kesha. That time, eight representatives said no comment and 12 did not respond. In other words, the expected reaction from publicists and managers.

What did we learn from this exercise? Randomly emailing public relations people to ask if they wanted to insert themselves, and therefore their clients, into a controversial narrative involving a person to whom their client is tangentially connected is a fruitless activity. PR people get a lot of emails from journalists asking for comment all day, every day. Most requests, it’s safe to assume, go unanswered. Emails that get answers are pressing or in the direct interests of the artists they represent. To assume complicity in the “silence” of an artist because their PR person did not respond to a random email from a journalist is, at best, a reach.

But we wanted a publicist to confirm this for us, so we reached out to 26 well-connected reps to ask what they thought of BuzzFeed’s story. We gave them a two-hour deadline. Here’s what they said:

Beyoncé

Her representative did not respond.

Ivanka Trump

Her representative did not respond.

Ed Sheeran

His representative did not respond.

Kim Kardashian

Her representative did not respond.

Chrissy Teigen

Her representative did not respond.

Tyler, the Creator

His representative did not respond.

Solange

Her representative did not respond.

Jaden Smith

His representative did not respond.

Nancy Grace

Her representative did not respond.

Beats by Dre

A representative did not respond.

The White House

A representative did not respond.

Apple

A representative did not respond.

Microsoft

A representative declined to comment.

Jake Paul

His representative did not respond.

James Earl Jones

His representative did not respond.

Phil Walzak, spokesperson for New York City mayor Bill de Blasio

“Honestly I have no thoughts on this.”

Kevin Hart

His representative did not respond.

Usher

His representative did not respond.

Louise Mensch (she represents herself)

She did not respond.

Ann Coulter

Her representative did not respond.

Geraint Thomas

His representative did not respond.

Kate Middleton

Her representative did not respond.

Jodie Whittaker

Her representative did not respond.

Fran Lebowitz

Her representative did not respond.

Justin Trudeau

His representative did not respond.

Shonda Rhimes

Her representative did not respond.

Additional reporting by Jeff Ihaza and Josh Topolsky.

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