Amid growing outrage, Verizon Wireless has cut off its support of hip-hop superstar Akon, who is under investigation for a simulated rape of a 14-year-old preacher’s daughter caught on video last month at a concert in Trinidad.
Spokesman Jim Gerace admitted the corporation made a “mistake” partnering with Akon, according to columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin.
“Verizon decided this week to end its support and sponsorship of Akon,” said Gerace, vice president of corporate communications.
As WND reported, Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning has called for a formal investigation. Some officials have said they want Akon banned from further public performances on the island.
Despite assertions to the contrary, the Verizon spokesman said, the cell phone giant is not sponsoring the Gwen Stefani tour with Akon as opening act.
“We are no longer – that was the decision we made this week. If the reader is seeing a poster or something promoting our sponsorship of the tour, it’s only because that material has not yet been destroyed,” Gerace wrote in an explanation to Malkin.
Along with Malkin, talk-radio host Laura Ingraham highlighted the story this week after a shocking video turned up on YouTube showing Akon throwing Danah Alleyne on the floor like a “rag doll” and simulating violent sex during a concert April 12 at Trinidad’s Club Zen.
Akon’s act in Trinidad
(Warning: Contains sexually explicit, graphic, disturbing material).
The girl, daughter of Flaming World Ministry pastor David Alleyne, came forward with her father to apologize for going on stage with the Senegalese-American Akon, saying she regrets attending the concert.
“I was shocked when Akon pulled me to dance,” said Danah in a public apology last month. “I did not know what to do and with the crowd cheering and stuff I guess I got a little carried away. But there was nothing I could have done about it. I was in a state of real shock. I am so sorry for everything. I am sorry for disappointing my parents and my brother Ian, who is a public figure in his portfolio as the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Crime Watch. I will learn from this experience for sure. This week was the worst week of my life.”
Besides the controversy in Trinidad, Akon has served jail time for armed robbery and drug sales. But that didn’t stopped him from appearing recently as a guest performer on “American Idol” and receiving corporate support from companies like Verizon.
Verizon announced its partnership with Akon earlier this year on a marketing campaign to promote mobile music phones and appear in a TV ad currently airing throughout the U.S.
Verizon now has removed Akon ring tones from its website.
Danah Alleyne and her father David
Prior to the split this week, John Harrobin, vice president of marketing and new media for Verizon, said Akon “has emerged as one of the world’s most compelling and exciting stars.”
“His commitment to his artistry and the community enables us to take our partnership with music industry innovators in yet another direction by collaborating on this unique TV advertising campaign,” Harrobin said.
Recently Akon participated in a Verizon Wireless event celebrating Black History Month coinciding with the launch of a new store in Harlem.
Akon’s recording “Konvicted” was near the top of the Billboard album charts for weeks. He’s a best-selling performer in more than a dozen countries including the United Kingdom, France, Canada and South Africa.
Akon is performing this summer at some of the biggest arenas in the U.S. – including Giants Stadium June 3.
Born in St. Louis, Akon is the son of Senegalese parents. He served a total of five years in prison. In late 2005, his manager Robert Montanez was killed in a drive-by shooting. Akon was in the car and was shot in the shoulder, however he made a full recovery. He professes to be a Muslim and a believer and practitioner of polygamy.
His record label operates in partnership with Interscope Records, a U.S. company owned by Universal and and UMG’s Interscope-Geffen-A&M label group, a giant in the entertainment industry.
David Geffen, one of the largest music magnates int he world, was a major political contributor to Bill Clinton and is now supporting Barack Obama.
Akon is currently working on his first movie. He has his own clothing line and diamond distribution company.