R. Kelly's legal woes may not have had much impact on his career, but they've won him some enemies on Capitol Hill. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus balked at the booking of the alleged child pornographer to perform at a D.C. benefit held by the CBC Spouses to raise money for scholarships, the keynote event at the annual CBC Conference. ''I would not have invited R. Kelly," Congressman William Jefferson (D-La.), the CBC Foundation Chairman, told The Associated Press before Friday's concert. Jefferson said other CBC members also "worry that [Kelly's appearance] will overshadow the event.''
CBC spouses defended the hiring of Kelly, whose current album Happy People/U Saved Me is a top-10 hit, saying that his presence would help raise money. ''We are confident that [Kelly's] performance will help us to achieve our goal to educate the next generation of leaders,'' CBC Spouses director Jacquelin Dennis said in a statement on Thursday.
A Kelly spokesman said the criticism of his client was unfair. ''We're sorry William Jefferson feels that way,'' Allan Mayer told E! Online. ''But the fact is, in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty.'' Kelly has pleaded not guilty to 14 counts of child pornography, stemming from a tape that prosecutors say depicts the singer in various sex acts with an underage girl. Kelly himself issued a statement saying that he was ''privileged and honored to be invited to help such a distinguished group raise money for such a worthy cause.'' He added, ''I can't think of anything more important to support than education.'' On Friday, the concert went on, apparently without incident, before an audience of 2,000 people at the Washington Convention Center.