T.I. calls backlash to remarks on daughter 'hymen-gate,' says comments were 'misconstrued'

"All of this false narrative has just been sensationalized," T.I. told Jada Pinkett Smith on "Red Table Talk."
Image: Rapper T.I. in New York on April 7, 2017.
Rapper T.I. in New York on April 7, 2017.Roy Rochlin / FilmMagic file

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By Janelle Griffith

Rapper and actor T.I. attempted to clarify the widely condemned remarks he made about taking his teenage daughter to a yearly gynecologist appointment to ensure that her hymen "is still intact."

T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., and his wife, Tameka "Tiny" Harris, appeared on an episode of Jada Pinkett Smith's "Red Table Talk" that aired Monday on Facebook Watch.

T.I. dubbed the backlash from his earlier remarks about his 18-year-old daughter Deyjah Harris "hymen-gate" and said his intentions "have been terribly misconstrued."

During an episode of the "Ladies Like Us" podcast that aired Nov. 5, hosts Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham asked T.I. if he had "the sex talk" with his daughters.

T.I. said: "Yes. Not only have we had the conversation. We have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen,” referring specifically to Deyjah Harris.

T.I. told Pinkett Smith the conversation from the podcast was "in a very joking manner."

"And so I just, from a place of truth, I began to embellish and exaggerate and I think that a lot of people kind of took it extremely literal,“ T.I. said. “I honestly thought people knew me better than that.”

Pinkett Smith responded, "Well, there's some of us that know you, but there's a lot of people that don't."

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Many expressed concern over his earlier remarks or slammed them as controlling, harmful and disgusting, among other things.

Asked by Pinkett Smith whether he understood the sensitivity surrounding the topic, T.I. said he did not at the time, but does now.

T.I. also sought to clarify his earlier remarks.

"I never said I was in any exam room. That is an assumption. That is a falsity," he said on "Red Table Talk." "I never said that it was being done present day as an 18-year-old."

His wife said the gynecologist visits occurred when Deyjah Harris was 15 and 16 years old.

T.I. also said that Deyjah Harris' mother, singer Ms. Niko, was present during the doctor visits and that she welcomed his presence.

"All of this false narrative has just been sensationalized," T.I. said, adding that his daughter took issue with him discussing her virginity publicly. He said he is "incredibly apologetic" to her and that she understands his intentions. His wife added that Deyjah Harris is the couple's "quiet child" and that they have to "nudge things out of her."

T.I. said his daughter had requested he not comment about the matter publicly after the backlash, but that he was doing so now with her permission.

"I didn’t get it. I was oblivious to it. However, I am now sensitive to it for her," he said.

Pinkett Smith and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, who also appeared on the show as she often does, pressed T.I. on the criticism he was using a double standard in being more concerned with his daughter's virginity than his son's.

"If my son goes out and gets a girl pregnant, how is the household changed for those nine months?" T.I. asked. "The household does not necessarily change those nine months, whereas if my daughter come home, my household is changed immediately. The stakes are higher."

During the podcast interview, T.I. said that the gynecologist informed him that the hymen can be broken by means other than sexual intercourse, such as "bike riding, athletics, horseback riding" and other "athletic physical activity."

T.I. said he told the gynecologist: "'Look doc, she don’t ride no horses. She don’t ride no bike. She don’t play no sports. Just check the hymen please and give me back my results — expeditiously.'"

The hymen, a thin membrane at the opening of the vagina, is believed by some to remain intact until a woman first has sexual intercourse — a notion widely debunked by medical experts. Human rights organizations have also called “virginity testing” both unnecessary and harmful for women.