R. Kelly
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The allegations in Lifetime's shocking R. Kelly documentary are sending the Twitterverse into an uproar

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January 04, 2019 03:35 PM

The revelations in Lifetime’s shocking R. Kelly documentary are sending the Twitterverse into an uproar.

The first part of the six-part series aired on Thursday night and features wide-ranging interviews with R. Kelly’s family members, former friends and colleagues, but most notably, women who claim that for decades the hit-making singer and producer used his power and influence to sexually and physically abuse women and young girls.

Most of the praise for the documentary is rooted in the idea that the music community knew about the 51-year-old’s alleged behavior and continued to cover up for him.

RELATED: John Legend on R. Kelly Documentary: I ‘Don’t Give a F— About Protecting a Serial Child Rapist’

Others also criticized some viewers’ argument that the girls and women involved should’ve known better.

And praised the network for taking a stand:

RELATED: R. Kelly’s Ex-Wife Recalls the Time She Contemplated Suicide on Their Hotel Balcony

Those who maintained their support of R. Kelly largely called out the salacious nature of the documentary.

RELATED: R. Kelly’s Former Backup Singer Stands by Claim She Saw Him Have Sex with Underaged Aaliyah

The alleged abuse outlined in the first night of the documentary included an emotional interview with former backup singer Jovante Cunningham, who met R. Kelly at age 14 and claims she bore direct witness to a sexual encounter Kelly had with his one-time protégée Aaliyah Haughton. (On Wednesday, Aaliyah’s mother Diane Haughton posted a statement to the official Aaliyah Twitter account, denying the allegation that any such thing could have happened and calling Cunningham’s statements “lies and fabrications.”)

Cunningham has since released a statement to PEOPLE, saying she stands by her account.

“It’s unfortunate that there are still people trying to protect Robert when they know he has destroyed so many people’s lives,” she writes. “I loved Aaliyah and when people watch the documentary, they will see how much I cared for her and how much Robert’s actions deeply affected me and so many others.”

RELATED VIDEO: John Legend Speaks Out Against R. Kelly in New Documentary About Alleged Abuse

Representatives for R. Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, responded “no comment” to PEOPLE’s request for a response to the allegations made in Surviving R. Kelly and interviews with alleged victims in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands now. According to TMZ, Kelly’s lawyer Brian Nix has threatened to sue Lifetime network if it airs the documentary. When contacted by PEOPLE, Nix had no comment.

RELATED: #MuteRKelly: Time’s Up Joins R. Kelly Boycott Amid Ongoing Sexual Misconduct Allegations

In a statement to PEOPLE, Lifetime said it “has always been a brand that champions women’s stories. The documentary will air as scheduled.”

On Thursday night alone, 1.9 million total viewers tuned in, making Lifetime’s best performance in more than two years, according to Nielsen Media Research. And with over 743,000 total interactions across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Surviving R. Kelly was Lifetime’s largest social premiere for any series or movie in network history, Lifetime said in a press release.

For more powerful stories from alleged victims of R. Kelly, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands now.

Surviving R. Kelly airs on Lifetime at 9 p.m. ET from Thursday, Jan. 3 to Saturday, Jan. 5.

If you or someone you know think they are being abused, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now for anonymous, confidential help, available 24/7.

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