Mariah Carey Responds to Calls That Qaddafi Money Be Returned

'I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for,' singer says in statement

March 3, 2011 6:30 PM ET
Mariah Carey Responds to Calls That Qaddafi Money Be Returned
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

Mariah Carey announced today she feels "horrible and embarrassed" for performing on behalf of Muatassim Qaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who hired her to sing four songs on the Caribbean island of St. Bart's during New Year's Eve 2008. "I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for," the singer said in a statement. "Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately, we as artists are to be held accountable."
Carey, who did not say whether she would donate the $1 million she reportedly received for the gig, was the third major pop star this week to respond to outrage that they were hired entertainers at private parties for Qaddafi family members. Her publicist, Cindi Berger, pointed to Carey's charitable donations, including a future song, "Save the Day," which will benefit human-rights groups.

But several sources in the music business were dubious that the advisers to major stars such as Carey did not know in advance that the Qaddafi family was involved. "Giving the money to charity is good. Ill-gotten gains tend to help people somewhere else — I don't have a problem with that," says Jamie Kitman, who manages rock bands OK Go and They Might Be Giants. "But if some weirdo from outer space calls you up and says, 'I'll give you a bunch of money to play here,' people tend to ask, 'Well, who are you, and where is the money coming from?'" Adds Allen Kovac, manager for Steven Tyler, Motley Crue and others: "Oh, they knew — they absolutely knew, by the time they were there. That's being advised incorrectly."

Beyoncé, who performed five songs on St. Bart's for New Year's Eve 2009, said through her publicist that she had donated the money to a Haiti earthquake-relief charity. "Once it became known that the third-party promoter was linked to the Qaddafi family, the decision was made to put that payment to a good cause," Yvette Noel-Schure said in a statement. On Monday, Nelly Furtado acknowledged she received $1 million for playing a "Qaddafi clan" function in Italy and would donate the money to an undisclosed charity. "That's awesome," Howie Klein, former president of Reprise Records and a prominent leftist blogger, said of the singer's statement. "I can't imagine that she should have handled it any better way."

However, Ben Dickey, manager of Spoon and other alt-rock acts, criticized the timing of Beyoncé's statement — that she didn't announce she'd donated the money until after the story blew up in the press last week. "That kind of feels like they just got caught," he says. "Even when they were there, they didn't know who they were playing for? That feels hard to believe."

Managers for Usher, who according to our sources introduced Beyoncé at the 2009 St. Bart's event, and 50 Cent, who has performed at other events for Muatassim Qaddafi's group, refused requests for comment. A music-business source tells Rolling Stone that Qaddafi's son sponsored "tons" of these shows when the Bush Administration reestablished diplomatic ties to Libya, after Muammar Qaddafi renounced terrorism and said he would destroy his weapons of mass destruction.

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