LONDON — Top British politicians on Monday urged police to investigate sexual assault allegations against Russell Brand, as Britain’s entertainment industry questioned whether the comedian’s bad behavior went unchallenged because of his fame.
Brand denies sexual assault allegations made by four women in a Channel 4 television documentary and in The Times and Sunday Times newspapers.
Among the accusers, who have not been named, one said she was sexually assaulted during a relationship with him when she was 16. Another woman claims Brand raped her in Los Angeles in 2012.
Brand, 48, rejected all claims, saying in a video statement that his relationships were “always consensual.”
The Times said Monday that more women had contacted the newspaper with allegations against Brand and that they would be “rigorously vetted.”
Max Blain, spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said the allegations were “very serious and concerning” and those making the allegations should be “treated seriously and sensitively”.
Conservative lawmaker Caroline Nokes, who chairs the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, urged British and US police to investigate the “incredibly shocking” allegations.
“This deserves and requires a criminal investigation, because for too long we have seen men – and the perpetrators of these kinds of crimes are almost invariably men – not being held accountable for their behavior and their actions,” he said. -she declared on BBC radio.
London’s Metropolitan Police said it would speak to the Sunday Times and Channel 4 to ensure “any victims of crime they have spoken to know how they can report any criminal allegations to the police” .
“We are aware of reports from the Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches regarding allegations of sexual offences,” according to a police statement provided to NBC News on Monday.
Police “received a report on Sunday of a sexual assault which allegedly took place in Soho, central London, in 2003,” the statement continued. “Officers are in contact with the woman and will provide support.”
Police have appealed to all potential victims to come forward: “We continue to encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of a sexual offense, no matter how long ago, to contact us. »
The claims have reignited debate about the “lad culture” that flourished in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the misogyny that still permeates the internet.
The allegations reported by newspapers and Channel 4 cover the period between 2006 and 2013, when Brand was a major star in Britain with increasing visibility in the United States.
Known for his wild and risky stand-up routines, he hosted radio and television shows, wrote a memoir chronicling his battles with drugs and alcohol, appeared in several Hollywood films, and was briefly married to pop star Katy Perry between 2010 and 2012.
Brand was suspended by the BBC in 2008 for making lewd calls to “Fawlty Towers” actor Andrew Sachs, in which he bragged about having sex with Sachs’ granddaughter. He quit his radio show following the incident, which sparked thousands of complaints to the state-funded channel.
The BBC, Channel 4 and the production company behind the reality TV series “Big Brother” — whose spinoff was hosted by Brand — all say they have launched investigations into Brand’s behavior and how complaints were addressed.
Brand was also dropped by talent agency Tavistock Wood, who said they had been “horribly misled” by him.
Brand’s supporters questioned why these allegations were being made years after the alleged incidents. The women said they only felt ready to tell their story after being approached by journalists, with some citing Brand’s newfound notoriety as an online wellness influencer as a factor in their decision to speak .
Victims and the media should also consider the UK’s claimant-friendly defamation laws, which place the burden of proof on the perpetrators of the allegations.
In recent years, Brand has largely disappeared from mainstream media, but has built a large following online with videos mixing wellness and conspiracy theories. His YouTube channel, which has more than 6 million subscribers, includes Covid-19 conspiracies, vaccine misinformation and interviews with right-wing broadcasters including Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan.
He also continues to tour as a comedian, performing in front of hundreds of people at a London venue on Saturday night when the Channel 4 documentary was broadcast.
Ellie Tomsett, a lecturer in media and communications at Birmingham City University who studies the British stand-up circuit, said Brand was the product of a live comedy scene riddled with misogyny – and still is, despite the strides women and others have made to diversify the comedy landscape.
“When we had a rise in popular feminism… we also had a rise in popular misogyny epitomized by Andrew Tate (social media influencer), but evident in all aspects of society, and which is clearly reflected in comedy British circuit,” Tomsett said.
“More and more things are popping up to try to counter this, but the idea that this is something that happened in the past and doesn’t happen anymore is, frankly, absurd,” she said. added.