Jennifer Lopez apologized Sunday after a barrage of criticism followed her singing “Happy Birthday” to the leader of Turkmenistan, a country described by human rights groups as “among the most repressive in the world.”
The singer and actress performed in the former Soviet bloc country on Saturday night. A statement released Sunday by her publicist to the Associated Press said the event was hosted by the China National Petroleum Corp. and wasn’t a political event.
However, the country's leader, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, attended. Berdimuhamedow has been criticized for his oppressive rule by Human Rights Watch and similar organizations.
Lopez’s publicist said the event was vetted by Lopez's staff: “Had there been knowledge of human rights issues any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”
The birthday serenade was a last-minute request made by the corporation to Lopez before she took the stage, and she “graciously obliged,” the statement said.
Lopez is the latest celebrity feel the heat after performing in countries or for leaders with human rights violations.
In 2011, Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank had to apologize after attending a birthday party for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who had been accused of torture and killings.
Beyonce, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Usher performed at parties linked to the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. All later announced plans to donate their performance fees to charity.