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‘Surviving R. Kelly’ Will Air as Planned, Despite Legal Threat

The Lifetime network’s three-part special, “Surviving R. Kelly,” will air beginning tonight as planned despite a legal threat from the singer, a rep for the network told Variety.

Lifetime has always been a brand that champions women’s stories,” the statement reads. “The documentary will air as scheduled, starting tonight at 9pm ET/PT.”

The special — reviewed here by Variety’s Caroline Framke — is a harrowing recounting of accusations and allegations against Kelly dating back to the early 1990s. In painful detail, his alleged victims, all of whom were teenaged or in their early 20s when they first met him, talk about a gradual transformation from a charming and seductive suitor to a controlling and abusive dominator. The series explores Kelly’s background, the allegations against him and the way that he has successfully defeated them in court.

According to TMZ, an attorney for Kelly, Brian Nix, sent a letter to the network that threatened to file a federal lawsuit today (Jan. 3), the day of the first episode’s airing, if Lifetime does not cancel the series. The site claims that “Kelly says he has 2 audio recordings — 5 minutes in duration — that show Lifetime knew ‘some of the girls are lying, but that the budget was too high to turn back now,’” although the Lifetime rep said they had not seen the letter or heard Kelly’s reported comments.

On Dec. 4, a screening and public conversation about the series, including the alleged victims, was abruptly evacuated after the venue received two anonymous, threatening calls in which the caller claimed someone had a gun in the theater; the calls were routed to local police, who advised the evacuation. The evacuation took place around 15 minutes into a talk that followed the screening, in which the seven accusers featured in the film were to speak about their experiences with the singer.

Speaking with Variety shortly after the evacuation, Kelly’s ex-wife Drea said, “I do believe that in some shape, form or fashion [the gun threat] is connected to him. Now, whether he orchestrated it or not, that I cannot say. But I just do not believe in coincidences. Of all the theaters, of all the nights, of all the premiers, it happened with us.”

Speaking of her fellow accusers, she added, among other comments, “I know some people might think a situation like being evacuated is the worst thing that could ever happen, but this is the best thing that could happen to us. We are united and we’re not going anywhere. That documentary was not done in vain. And now people will want to know, “What was it they did not want to be seen?”

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