Lukasz Gottwald, better known as Dr. Luke; Kesha (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni/AP/Charles Sykes)

Dr. Luke's calculated #FreeKesha denial: Saying he's the son of "a feminist mom who raised me right" can't shut down her support

The embattled producer tells his side of the story -- but still falls short of showing true empathy for victims


Mary Elizabeth Williams
February 23, 2016 8:49PM (UTC)

This isn't over. Just days after New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich ruled to uphold singer-songwriter Kesha's contractual obligation to Sony Music and, by extension, Dr. Luke — the producer she says sexually assaulted and emotionally abused her — the man at the center of the storm has spoken out.

Kesha's quest to emancipate herself has always been, she says, about freeing herself from her abuser. Last fall, her attorney argued that continuing her association with Sony would cause her career "irreparable harm." But in an Instagram post last week, she took a more personal stance, saying, "I have nothing left to hide. I did this because the truth was eating away my soul and killing me from the inside. this is not just for me. this is for every woman, every human who has ever been abused. sexually. emotionally. mentally. I had to tell the truth…. it's just so scary to have zero control in your fate." And when Kornreich handed down her decision not to "decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated," the singer openly wept. Since then, support has flooded in from fans and fellow artists including Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Kelly Clarkson, Lena Dunham and Ariana Grande, and the hashtag #FreeKesha has become a rallying cry.

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Dr. Luke's team, meanwhile, on Monday called Kesha's "vicious smear campaign to ruin Luke's reputation" merely a ploy "to extort a contract renegotiation and money." And on Monday evening, Dr. Luke — who has worked on hits for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Flo Rida and Miley Cyrus — took to Twitter to vent and tell his side. In a series of tweets, he explained that "This is an ongoing legal case so I won't be responding / talking much about this. This should be tried in a court of law" — and then proceeded to respond/talk. Vowing that "I feel confident when this is over the lies will be exposed" and calling the dispute "so horrendous and untrue," Dr. Luke posted a screenshot from a 2011 deposition obtained by TMZ, in which Kesha denied ever being drugged by him or having sexual relations with him. He stated outright that "I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her. Kesha and I were friends for many years and she was like my little sister." And he noted that "Mark Geragos (kesha's attorney) represented Scott Peterson and Chris Brown. How can he pretend he cares about women's rights?"

As Dr. Luke points out, Kesha's attorney Mark Geragos is a man who has in the past stood on the side of men accused of abuse. He has worked for convicted felony assailant Chris Brown, calling the singer "a son" to him and "a really great kid." Two decades ago, he gained notoriety defending accused child molester Michael Jackson, whom he described as "not a freak in any sense of the word." He insisted that Scott Peterson, currently on death row for murdering his pregnant wife, was "stone cold innocent." And two years ago, after Lady Gaga went public with her story of being sexually assaulted by a producer when she was 19, Geragos claimed it was Dr. Luke — an assertion both Gaga and Dr. Luke categorically denied.

Kesha's contractual dispute is not a criminal investigation. Despite the seriousness of the accusations, the objective of case has not been to punish Dr. Luke but emancipate Kesha from proximity to him, and from a label that she believes will not work with her interests at heart. As Dr. Luke asked on Twitter Monday, "Imagine if you or somebody you loved was publicly accused of a rape you knew they didn't do. Imagine that." Yet you can do that — and if you believe in justice, you must — and still remain skeptical of Dr. Luke's tactics. If, as he says, he's the product of "a feminist mom who raised me right," why did he pour out a tweet storm of accusations against Kesha and her attorney, a statement on how "lives can get ruined when there’s a rush to judgment before all the facts come out. Look what happened at UVA, Duke etc." — and fail to mention anything remotely empathetic about the realities of sexual assault, and how rarely the system favors its victims? Why is there not even a word that suggests a degree of awareness of the injustice that so often does occur around rape and abuse, but instead just a shrugging "any sane person is against rape and sexual assault"?

Whatever you believe about what happened between Kesha and Dr. Luke — a narrative that, as in so many of these cases, boils down to he said-she said — when he chose to address the case in public, he had an opportunity to say more than "I didn't do it," or even, "This is about money." He had a chance to say he understood why this case has struck such a nerve, or why the consequences are still so much less dire for him. But he didn't. And no matter what the outcome, he fails to notice that nobody's limiting his career prospects, and he's not the one sobbing in the back of the room.

Lena Dunham Speaks Out on Ruling in Kesha's Legal Battle


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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