Jennifer Lopez is singing a different tune about her crooning for the president of Turkmenistan on Saturday.
The pop and movie star serenaded Turkmen dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has a record of oppression and human rights violations, with the song “Happy Birthday” at a corporate event concert in Turkmenistan sponsored by the Chinese state-owned oil and natural-gas company China National Petroleum Corp.
But by Sunday Lopez’s camp was in damage control mode, saying the event “was not a government sponsored event or political in nature” and that Lopez would not have performed if she were aware of the regime’s history of human rights offenses.
“The event was vetted by her representatives,” according to a statement obtained by E! News. “Had there been knowledge of human rights issues of any kind, Jennifer would not have attended.”
The statement added that “the China National Petroleum Corporation made a last minute 'birthday greeting' request prior to Jennifer taking the stage,” which Lopez honored. Lopez’s spokesman didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The “Gigli” star was widely criticized for performing, as Berdymukhamedov is regularly blasted by human rights groups, with Transparency International ranking his regime in the bottom seven worldwide for corruption. He was celebrating his 56th birthday at the event, and he has been the country’s president since 2006.
“Lopez obviously has the right to earn a living performing for the dictator of her choice and his circle of cronies, but her actions utterly destroy the carefully crafted message she has cultivated with her prior involvement with Amnesty International’s programs in Mexico aimed at curbing violence against women,” Humans Rights Foundation President Thor Halvorssen wrote in a statement.
Lopez has been recognized for her humanitarian efforts in the past, and in 2007 Amnesty International honored her for producing the film “Bordertown,” which highlighted femicide in Mexico.