Obama’s portrait painter denies allegations of sexual harassment and claims accuser “aggressively” pursued him

Artist Kehinde Wiley, best known for painting the presidential portrait of Barack Obama, has denied allegations of sexual assault in a new social media post, claiming his accuser has stalked him “over the years.”

Last month, British-Ghanaian artist and curator Joseph Awuah-Darko accused Wiley of sexually harassing him twice in 2021. “It almost destroyed me,” the artist wrote on Instagram about the alleged incident.

In the post, Awuah-Darko claimed he was “inappropriately groped” by Wiley on June 9, 2021, at a dinner hosted by the Noldor Artist Residency in Ghana in honor of Wiley’s work. He said the groping was “unwanted and unprovoked” and occurred in the presence of another guest.

He then claimed a second attack was “much more severe and violent,” without giving further details. However, he later said: The New York Times that the “sexual contact began consensual but then moved to a bedroom where … Mr. Wiley forced himself on him after Mr. Awuah-Darko said he did not want to go any further.”

Wiley has now responded to Awuah-Darko’s allegations in his own Instagram post on June 11, writing: “I must set the record straight regarding the false claims made against me. My accuser’s disturbing allegations are baseless and defamatory. And while I have remained mostly silent, I must bring the truth to light about how he has stalked me over the years.”

Along with screenshots of their private interactions on WhatsApp, Wiley confirmed that he met Awauah-Darko in 2021 at a “dinner at his loft in Ghana.”

“We flirted all night,” Wiley explained. “He came to my hotel room around 4 a.m. We had a one-time encounter. It was all consensual.”

', Kehinde Wiley
‘, Kehinde Wiley (Getty Images)

Wiley continued, “The next day he left happy, as witnessed by my assistant who arranged his ride home. He also sent me these friendly and flirtatious text messages. This was the beginning of years of Joseph aggressively pursuing a relationship with me.

“In February 2022, a year after we first met, he traveled 4,377 miles from London to Lagos, Nigeria JUST to attend my birthday party,” he claimed. “Just last year, he repeatedly tried to visit me at my cabin in upstate New York, which I ignored.

“Since we first met in 2021, he has sent me regular messages via phone and Instagram expressing his love for me, my talent and my work.”

Wiley called the allegations a “ruthless smear campaign” and accused Awuah-Darko of harassing friends and colleagues and “desperately seeking information to support his ridiculous campaigns.”

“He found nothing,” Wiley said, adding that Awuah-Darko “eventually managed to form a conspiratorial group” with “an individual with whom I had a brief consensual encounter in 2021; this individual, too, had hoped for a more meaningful relationship.”

“We live in a world where a single false social media post can destroy a person’s life, where people are tried and convicted online with no regard for the truth. This is dangerous and wrong,” Wiley concluded. “I encourage anyone reading this post to take a closer look at my accusers and their motives.”

Wiley has since sent Awuah-Darko a cease and desist letter demanding that he remove the “categorically false and defamatory” Instagram posts. CNN reports.

Awuah-Darko, meanwhile, addressed Wiley directly in an Instagram post shared on Monday, which read: “Sue me and EVERY OTHER victim who has come forward publicly for defamation if you say our claims are ‘false.’ I challenge you. And do it fast.”