While promoting her new film, “What Men Want,” the actress told The Associated Press on Monday that she was “just making an observation,” when she compared the Instagram engagements of the hashtag #MuteRKelly to those of #MuteHarveyWeinstein.
Both R. Kelly and Weinstein have faced several sexual abuse allegations.
“I never tried to say anything,” she said. “I was just making an observation, and people know what side I’m on. Why would I launch a foundation for mental health in an African-American community for people to go somewhere to talk to somebody about traumatic experiences and then side with the predator?”
Last week Henson pointed out, in a since-deleted Instagram story, that the #MuteRKelly hashtag had garnered tens of thousands more posts on the social media platform than similar hashtags for Weinstein had.
The #MuteRKelly movement, which was founded by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes, began with a petition to get R. Kelly’s music off Atlanta radio in 2017.
Although R. Kelly has faced sexual misconduct allegations, including charges of child pornography, over the course of two decades, a recent six-part documentary on Lifetime, “Surviving R. Kelly,” has helped to give his accusers― mostly black women and girls ― a larger platform to tell their stories.
R. Kelly has denied all sexual misconduct allegations.
Though it wasn’t exactly clear what point Henson was trying to make on Instagram last week, many social media users, including “Surviving R. Kelly” executive producer dream hampton, were quick to point out that her hashtag comparison was reminiscent of commonly used deflections in conversations surrounding sexual assault.
“No idea why Taraji Henson wouldn’t know that there are not one, but two projects [about] Harvey Weinstein,” hampton wrote on Twitter. “But this is an oft-invoked deflection.”
The filmmaker also later noted that disgraced Hollywood mogul Weinstein is set to face a criminal trial for sexual assault allegations against him.
Henson told the AP that the backlash to her Instagram story came from, “people who want to see me fail anyway.”
“There’s no way, if you follow my career, you got that confused,” she added, saying it’s a “weird time” where “anything you say or do can be taken totally out of context.”