Jennifer Lopez on Sunday was apologizing for singing “Happy Birthday to You” to the president of Turkmenistan at a concert Saturday night in that country.
Seems the concert was put together on behalf of China National Petroleum Corp. for the entertainment of their executives working in Turkmenistan, according to a statement from J.Lo’s rep obtained by E! News, and “was not a government sponsored event or political in nature.”
“The event was vetted by her representatives, had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended,” the statement continued. However, the corporation folks made a last-minute request for a “birthday greeting” before the singer took the stage, and President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov got a 56th birthday serenade.
The Human Rights Foundation criticized the performance in a strongly worded statement released Sunday, prompting the apology. According to the nonprofit, Berdymukhamedov has “ruled the country with an iron fist since 2006."
The HRF statement, which listed the country’s alleged rights abuses and cited other groups’ rankings of the country among “the worst of the worst,” was not without a bit of snark.
“Lopez obviously has the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of her choice and his circle of cronies, but her actions utterly destroy the carefully-crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International’s programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women,” said the foundation’s president, Thor Halvorssen. “What is the next stop on her tour, Syria? The dictator of Kazakhstan’s birthday is July 6, maybe she will also pay him a visit?” Halvorssen asked.
It’s not the first time Lopez has found herself a focus of international attention linked to a concert in a situation where human-rights abuses have been alleged.
In July 2010, Lopez canceled a performance that was to celebrate the opening of a hotel in the breakaway northern part of the island of Cyprus. Some saw Lopez’s planned performance as an endorsement of the self-declared state.
“Jennifer Lopez would never knowingly support any state, country, institution or regime that was associated with any form of human rights abuse,” said a statement issued at the time of the cancellation.
That gig, scheduled for J.Lo’s 41st birthday, reportedly would’ve come with a $3-million paycheck.