Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he had no idea “I Believe I Can Fly” was a mega-hit for R. Kelly — and wouldn’t have flapped his arms to a version being sung in a South Carolina church if he’d known.
“I didn’t know it was his song. I just didn’t know it was his song. I know the song, but I didn’t know it was him. Period,” de Blasio said.
Asked if he now had second thoughts, de Blasio said, “I guess.”
“You act differently if you know but I just didn’t know,” he said during an unrelated news conference in Brooklyn.
“And I know you guys have a job to do, but I hope if you were in the same situation you would accept if you don’t know someone’s song you can’t pass judgment in the moment.”
He added: “I was a guest in that church, the minister played the song and spoke about it and I was being respectful. I think that’s all there is to say about it. It wasn’t something I had foreknowledge on.”
On Sunday, a NY1 reporter shot 18 seconds of cellphone video that caught de Blasio joining in as the pastor and some congregants at the Victory Tabernacle Deliverance Temple in Orangeburg pantomimed having wings during the choir’s rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly.”
A sizeable number of female worshippers remained seated, however, apparently in response to last month’s 10-count indictment in Chicago that charged Kelly with sexually abusing three underage girls and an adult woman between 1998 and 2010.
Kelly’s recorded “I Believe I Can Fly” for the 1996 animated and live-action movie “Space Jam,” scoring a No. 1 hit on Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-hop chart and No. 2 on the “Hot 100.”
Kelly also won three Grammy awards for the song, which he performed at the 40th annual Grammy awards ceremony in 1998.
De Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray visited South Carolina this past weekend amid the mayor’s public flirtation with a 2020 bid for the White House.
The Palmetto State holds a key primary election early in the presidential nominating process.