NEW YORK — Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez is again under fire for singing “Happy Birthday” to a political leader with a record of human rights abuse, after revelations surfaced that she had performed at an event also attended by the reanimated corpse of former Cambodian dictator Pol Pot.
This week, Lopez sang to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the leader of Turkmenistan, at an event hosted by the China National Petroleum Corp. Turkmenistan’s regime has been accused by the US State Department of multiple human rights abuses, including: citizens’ inability to change their government; torture and mistreatment of detainees; incommunicado and prolonged detention; arbitrary arrest and detention; denial of due process and fair trial; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association; restrictions on religious freedom, including continued harassment of some religious minority group members; and violence against women.
However, Lopez’s publicist insisted that the event had not been vetted, and that the star would not have performed had she been aware of these issues. As such, her subsequent performance for Pol Pot—the deceased leader of the Khmer Rouge, who oversaw up to 3 million murders and led a regime accused of multiple crimes against humanity – has been met with outrage in many quarters. When asked for comment, music journalist Ellie Bracknell said, “To accidentally sing ‘Happy Birthday, Mr. President’ for one human rights abuser may be regarded as a misfortune. To do it twice looks like carelessness.”
When discussing the performance afterwards, Pot said he was “as surprised as everyone else,” adding, “My birthday’s in May, so it wasn’t even necessary.”
Lopez’s publicist has declined to comment on the Pot performance, but an aide released the following statement: “Had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended. We are also going to bring in experts to train the team in using both ‘Google,’ ‘Wikipedia,’ and smartphones, so the next time Ms. Lopez is invited to attend an event run by human rights abusers, she’ll know exactly which human rights are being abused as she melodically and sensually wishes them a Happy Birthday.”