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Pitchfork Apologizes for Booking R. Kelly at 2013 Festival

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Singer R. Kelly performs onstage during the 2013 BET Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on June 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for BET)

Today, Pitchfork announced that it has partnered with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) to “to raise awareness and funds to support the fight against sexual violence” at this year’s edition of the site’s annual festival. Included in that announcement is an apology from Pitchfork for booking R. Kelly to headline its 2013 festival. The relevant portion reads:

In committing to raise awareness for such an important cause, Pitchfork’s editors and festival staff feel it’s appropriate to acknowledge a past mistake. In 2013, singer R. Kelly headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival. While Kelly has not been charged with any crime since his 2008 acquittal on charges of child pornography, and denies all allegations, an overwhelming number of accusations of sexual abuse have been made against him dating back many years. It was wrong to book R. Kelly to perform at our festival in 2013 and we regret doing so. Pitchfork supports the work of journalists and organizations who have brought the allegations against him to light.

Pitchfork’s decision to book Kelly was a pivotal moment in re-raising awareness in the public consciousness regarding his alleged sex crimes. A few months following his appearance at the festival, in the Village Voice, Jessica Hopper interviewed Chicago Sun-Times writer Jim DeRogatis about his initial reporting regarding Kelly. The writers discussed the infamous sex tape for which Kelly would stand trial, as well as his reputation for seeking out teenage girls in Chicago. (The link to the Village Voice piece is dead, but you can read it via the Wayback Machine here.) The article was pegged to the release of Kelly’s 2013 album Black Panties, but Hopper also writes that she reexamined the allegations against Kelly after a conversation she had with DeRogatis. In the intro to the interview, she says that DeRogatis told her that one of Kelly’s victims had reached out to DeRogatis after he reviewed Kelly’s Pitchfork Festival set to thank him for “caring when one else did.”

In interviews years after the publication of the Village Voice article, DeRogatis highlighted Pitchfork booking Kelly as a moment that proved Kelly had escaped any consequences for his actions. In an interview with the Fader in 2017, he said:

The recording studio that we’re writing about in the BuzzFeed article is half a block from where the stage was set up in Union Park when he headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2013. You had 30,000 craft beer drinking, bearded hipsters, and half a mile away lived one of the girls who filed a lawsuit against him, which remains public record. He had a sexual relationship with her from 14 to 16 and she slit her wrists and tried to kill herself after that relationship ended. This is in the middle of that community. They’re supposed to know better.

Despite its regrettable role in the public’s renewed interest in the allegations against Kelly, Pitchfork has consistently covered recent stories from women who have come forward to speak about abuse they say he inflicted on them.

This year’s Pitchfork Music Festival takes place in Chicago from July 20-22, and is headlined by Tame Impala, Fleet Foxes, and Lauryn Hill.