Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has blasted Jennifer Lopez for giving a repressive former Soviet republic's president a birthday concert, saying celebrities have a responsibility when it comes to where they perform.
Turkmenistan and its president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, have been highly criticized for human rights violations, reports The Hill,
and Lopez's performance, which included a birthday serenade to the nation's leader, should not have happened, Ros-Lehtinen said.
Ros-Lehtinen attacked Lopez on Twitter and in a statement on her website, accusing her of ignoring Turkmenistan's human rights record.
She tweeted Monday: "Performing in Turkmenistan, one of most repressive regimes, was missed opportunity 4 @JLo
2 speak up 4 #HumanRights http://1.usa.gov/1cIOTyV
According to the State Department, security officials in Turkmenistan regularly "tortured and beat criminal suspects, prisoners, and individuals deemed critical of the government to extract confessions and as a form of punishment."
Lopez's publicist has already apologized for Saturday's concert and said that if the singer had known about human rights issues, she would not have traveled to the central Asian country to perform.
But Ros-Lehtinen said she's disappointed that Lopez did no research.
"Under the Berdimuhamedow regime, people are imprisoned and tortured for openly criticizing the government, journalists are censured, and various religious groups are often persecuted and restricted in their ability to function freely and openly," she said in a statement on her website.
"Ms. Lopez should have used better judgment before performing in a country led by such a repressive regime."
The Florida lawmaker said Lopez's actions send the wrong message to freedom-seeking people living under such conditions.
"Celebrities, as public figures, have a large microphone and should lend their voices to those unable to speak up for themselves in such repressive countries, and condemn these regimes," said Ros-Lehtinen.
Ros-Lehtinen said she appreciates J-Lo's apology, but she noted that the singer-actress "missed an opportunity to make a bigger statement by refusing to perform for Berdimuhamedow and calling out his country's abysmal human rights record."
"As a public figure, she can choose to stand up for those who have no voice of their own and whose leaders continue to oppress their own citizens," the lawmaker said.
Berdimuhamedow, who has been in power since 2007, was not at the performance, which was sponsored by the China National Petroleum Corporation. The company made the birthday request toward the end of the concert, which was held for political and business leaders in the country, and Lopez obliged.
The Human Rights Foundation also criticized Lopez for her decision to perform in Turkmenistan, and for the enthusiastic tweets her management and back-up singers were sending out to announce their presence in the country, reported The Hollywood Reporter.
"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.
Lopez's publicist said that despite the presence of many powerful political leaders, the concert was not political. Her fee for the performance was not disclosed, but in the past, Lopez earned $1 million for performing at the wedding of an Uzbek businessman in the Ukraine and another $1.4 million performing for the Azeri leader Telman Ismailov, according to The Guardian in London.
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