Jennifer Lopez Apologizes for Singing 'Happy Birthday' to Dictator

Image: Jennifer Lopez Apologizes for Singing 'Happy Birthday' to Dictator

Monday, 01 Jul 2013 02:34 PM

By Teresa Meek

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Jennifer Lopez may be humming the lyrics to her 2005 hit, “This Can’t Be Me (Can It?)” after apologizing for singing “Happy Birthday” to Turkmenistan dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow last week.

Billboard reports that Lopez performed June 29 in Turkmenistan at a nonpolitical event hosted by the China National Petroleum Corp., her publicist said, and would never have taken on the gig if she’d known about the dictator's record.

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Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying Berdimuhamedow has ruled the former Soviet republic “with an iron fist since 2006,” controlling the government and economy and ranking among the worst countries in the world for press freedom.

“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 Human Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen in the statement. “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?”

Lopez has worked with Amnesty International and other human rights groups in the past.

She’s hardly the first celebrity to perform for a dictator. Beyonce sang for for Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2010, the Telegraph reports, with her husband Jay-Z, and with Russell Simmons, Jon Bon Jovi, and Lindsay Lohan in attendance.

Mariah Carey and Nelli Furtado also sang for him, both later issuing profuse public apologies.

“I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for,” Carey said on her website. “I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess.”

Hilary Swank also apologized after attending a birthday party for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, like the others, claiming she had no knowledge of politics, ABC reported.

On the other hand, some performers have used their wiles to spy against dictators.

British opera singer Margery Booth performed for Hitler and passed intelligence about his regime to British Intelligence, The Daily Mail reports.

Once, just before she went onstage to sing for Hitler at the Berlin State Opera, a British Army officer shoved secret papers down her dress.

Refusing to perform for a dictator is another option. Hitler invited the Von Trapp Family Singers to sing for his birthday, but they refused, leading to their decision to escape Austria and eventually come to the United States.

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Related stories:

Jennifer Lopez: Latinos Realizing Power in Politics, Media

Jennifer Lopez: Gunshots Fired During Video Filming in Florida

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