Senior British politicians have called on law enforcement to launch an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against comedian Russell Brand, raising questions about whether his fame shielded him from scrutiny within the UK entertainment industry.
Brand vehemently denies the accusations of sexual assault brought forward by four women in a Channel 4 television documentary and reports in The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. The individuals making these claims have opted to remain anonymous, with one woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by Brand during a relationship when she was 16, and another asserting that he raped her in Los Angeles in 2012.
The 48-year-old comedian has refuted all accusations, asserting in a video statement that all his relationships were “always consensual.”
The Times disclosed that additional women have reached out with allegations against Brand, which the newspaper intends to “rigorously check.”
Max Blain, spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, characterized the allegations as “very serious and concerning,” emphasizing the importance of treating accusers with the seriousness and sensitivity they deserve.
Conservative legislator Caroline Nokes, Chair of the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, called for investigations by both British and American authorities, describing the allegations as “incredibly shocking” and warranting a criminal inquiry. She highlighted the historical issue of men avoiding accountability for their actions in such cases.
London’s Metropolitan Police force announced its intention to collaborate with the Sunday Times and Channel 4 to ensure that any potential victims of crime they have interacted with are aware of the process for reporting criminal allegations to the police.
These allegations have rekindled discussions about the “lad culture” that thrived in Britain during the 1990s and early 2000s and the enduring misogyny present on the internet.
The reported allegations span from 2006 to 2013, a period during which Brand was a prominent figure in the UK and expanding his presence in the United States. He was known for his audacious and provocative stand-up routines, hosted radio and television shows, authored memoirs detailing his battles with substance abuse, appeared in numerous Hollywood films, and had a brief marriage to pop star Katy Perry from 2010 to 2012.
Brand faced suspension by the BBC in 2008 for making crude prank calls about his sexual exploits involving actor Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter. The incident led to numerous complaints to the publicly funded broadcaster, prompting Brand to step down from his radio show.
The BBC, Channel 4, and the production company behind the “Big Brother” reality series, for which Brand hosted spinoffs, have all launched investigations into his behavior and the handling of complaints.
Furthermore, Brand has been dropped by talent agency Tavistock Wood, which cited being “horribly misled” by him.
Supporters of Brand have questioned the timing of the allegations, which have surfaced years after the alleged incidents. Some of the women explained that they felt prepared to share their stories only after being approached by reporters, with Brand’s renewed prominence as an online wellness influencer influencing their decisions to come forward.
The UK’s libel laws, which favor claimants and place the burden of proof on those making allegations, also factor into this situation.
In recent years, Brand has retreated from mainstream media but amassed a substantial online following with videos addressing wellness and conspiracy theories. His YouTube channel, boasting over 6 million subscribers, features content on COVID-19 conspiracy theories, vaccine misinformation, and interviews with right-wing broadcasters like Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan.
Brand continues to tour as a comedian, performing to large audiences in a London venue on Saturday night while the Channel 4 documentary aired.
You can also read: Russell Brand Strongly Rejects Sexual Assault Accusations
Ellie Tomsett, a senior lecturer in media and communications at Birmingham City University, who studies the UK’s stand-up comedy scene, asserts that Brand is a product of a live comedy environment plagued by misogyny—a problem that persists, despite the progress made by women and others in diversifying the comedy landscape.
She noted, “When we’ve had a rise of popular feminism…we’ve also had a rise in popular misogyny epitomized by the likes of [social media influencer] Andrew Tate, but evident in all aspects of society, and definitely reflected on the UK comedy circuit.” Tomsett emphasized that while efforts to combat this issue are emerging, the notion that it’s a thing of the past is misleading.