A five-year investigation has revealed horrifying allegations of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse. But the most revealing bit is how long media and entertainment organisations—including the BBC—knew about his conduct and turned a blind eye.
Content warning: This Big Story contains some detailed descriptions of sexual violence.
Remind me about Russell Brand…
While his superstar days are behind him, the British comedian once ruled the roost in the entertainment industry on both sides of the Atlantic.
- Brand kicked off his career as a startup comedian in 2000—and hosted radio programmes on the side.
- His big break came in the mid-2000s when he became the host of a Big Brother spinoff show on television.
- Brand soon became the most sought after presenter—hosting the NME, MTV and Brit awards ceremonies,
- And he landed his own debate series on TV—plus a two-hour radio program on the BBC.
- Starring roles in Hollywood films followed soon after—as did high profile celeb relationships. His exes include Kate Moss and Spice Girl star Geri Horner.
- He married Katy Perry in 2009 at a Hindu ceremony in Rajasthan—and dumped her via text message two years later.
Quote to note: At his peak in 2010, The Guardian admiringly described him “the most colossal show-off imaginable, but he is also a very hard-working, extremely self-aware, pathologically ambitious and highly intelligent show-off.” More accurately, Brand built a career on shock tactics—engineered to outrage—”releasing locusts, cutting up pigs’ heads, smashing up dead mice and birds with a hammer, and then throwing them into the audience.”
Political whiplash: In the late 2000s, Brand also became famous for his hardcore leftwing politics. His YouTube video series ‘The Trews’—as in “true” + “news”—claimed to “analyse the news, truthfully, spontaneously and with great risk to his personal freedom.” In 2015, Brand remade himself as a wellness guru—and recently launched a ‘sober festival’ where people did stuff like this:
But at the beginning of the pandemic, Brand suddenly took a hard right—embracing conspiracy theories beloved to Trump supporters:
Where once he positioned himself as a truth-teller, these days he trades in fake news, broadcasting live from a shed in Henley to his viewers on the right-wing streaming site Rumble. His YouTube videos have shouty, alarmist titles like “Bill Gates Has Been HIDING This And It’s ALL About To Come Out” or “The FBI Have Been Harvesting Your DNA?!” He has falsely claimed that drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin can be used to treat Covid, is avowedly anti-vax, and has espoused the “Great Reset” theory, which alleges that global elites are using the pandemic to usher in a new world order.
All of which has earned him an audience of 6.59 million adoring fans.
Ok, tell me about the rape allegations…
The investigation: The allegations were revealed as part of a joint investigation between The Sunday Times, Times UK and Channel Four. The Sunday Times published a detailed exposé over the weekend—right before Channel Four aired 1.5-hour episode of its series on sexual abuse in the world of comedy. Sunday Times first looked at reports of sexual violence in 2019—while the other two partners were independently investigating similar rumours. They finally pooled resources and findings in 2022.
According to The Times:
Over the past few years, reporters have interviewed hundreds of sources who knew or worked with Brand: ex-girlfriends and their friends and family, comedians and other celebrities, people who worked with him on radio and TV... Along with these interviews reporters have seen private emails and text messages, submitted freedom of information requests, viewed medical and therapists’ notes, scrutinised Brand’s books and interviews, and watched and listened to hundreds of hours of his shows on the BBC, Channel 4 and YouTube to corroborate allegations.
The published investigation primarily focuses on the testimony of three women—whose names have been changed.
Alice (2006): says she was 16 years old and still in school when 31-year-old Brand picked her up while she was shopping. On the first date, he made sure she was of age: “I don’t give a f*** if you’re 12 . . . I need to know where I stand legally.” She describes being groomed and treated like a child. Brand would call her “my dolly” and “the child.” Toward the end of their three-month relationship, he became openly abusive—once forcibly shoving himself into her mouth:
I ended up having to punch him really hard in the stomach to get him off. I was crying and he said, ‘Oh I only wanted to see your mascara run anyway.’ Then I knew at that point that he didn’t care about hurting me physically or emotionally . . . It shouldn’t take you having to punch someone and to wind them to get them off you. It shouldn’t be a physical fight.
Clip to note: Here’s is Brand on stage—joking about making someone’s mascara run:
Nadia (2012): She was casually dating Brand in LA. However, one day, he shoved her against a wall and raped her without a condom—when she refused to join a threesome. Nadia fled and later texted him, saying he had taken advantage of her and “scared the shit out of me”—“Do you know how scary [you are] when that glaze look comes over. When a girl say[s] NO it means no.” She was treated at a rape crisis centre—and underwent therapy to recover—but did not press charges.
Phoebe (2013): She had a brief relationship which had ended by the time they were working together on a project. He chased her around his home and pinned her down:
“I was screaming, and I was like, ‘What are you doing, stop, please, you’re my friend, I love you, please don’t do this, I don’t want to do this’ . . . I think he had his hands down my trousers but I was fighting so hard and I was screaming so hard, hoping that I could get through somehow.” She says: “I don’t know what the actual definition of ‘sexual assault’ is, but it feels like that. He didn’t rape me.”
She told her friends about the incident but returned to work—where Brand allegedly threatened her with legal action.
Brand’s response: Having been contacted by Times etc. for his response, Brand tried to come out ahead—releasing this video just before the investigation became public:
TLDR: It’s a liberal conspiracy by mainstream media outlets to shut me up because I speak the truth. Yes, he was indeed “promiscuous” but all the relationships were consensual.
Brand’s supporters: He has received plenty of support from other men who speak to a similar audience. For example: Elon Musk endorsed his conspiracy theory about the media, tweeting: “Of course. They don’t like competition.” Andrew Tate—the kickboxer turned influencer who is facing human trafficking charges—is also on his side. Other ‘Brand is best’ types include rightwing pundits like Tucker Carlson.
The fallout: So far, Brand has been dropped by his agent. And his former employers—BBC and Channel Four—have launched fresh internal investigations. But it is unclear if Brand will cancel his standup tour—though he did perform on Saturday night—soon after the allegations were aired. He received a standing ovation.
Hiding in plain sight
You may not care very much about Russell Brand but it is appalling that there was no attempt to investigate his behaviour or rein it in.
Pimp patrol: Channel Four’s own documentary shows that Brand was using its staff to approach young female audience members to meet him after the show. The clip below shows how blatant it was:
When they complained about Brand’s demands, they were told: “It’s what happens with the talent. Boys will be boys. It’s not a big deal.”
Quote to note: When Brand was being considered by Channel Four for a show in 2014, management came up with this remedy for his ‘bad behaviour’:
The solution that was offered was that we would take the female staff off the crew — women that have worked hard to get into this industry — now can’t work on particular shows because of fear that they might be assaulted or harassed. I was in disbelief.
The venerable BBC: which increasingly seems to be a safe harbour for sexual abusers—claims it is “urgently” looking into complaints. Yet, it did absolutely nothing when Brand repeatedly pulled sexually offensive stunts on his radio program. This included describing a well-known news reader as “erotic” and a “sex bomb”, and telling listeners that he would like to “go under the desk” while she was reading the news.
But the worst is this exchange with fellow BBC host Jimmy Saville—who was later exposed as a prolific paedophile. Brand offers to send his personal assistant—who he names on air—and ensure she is naked as per Saville’s demand:
The staff repeatedly flagged abusive behaviour—and yet the BBC insists it has no record of complaints.
Bigger than Brand: He wore his contempt for women on his sleeve—and expressed it openly in memoirs and stand-up routines. The reason why no one called him out: Brand was very much one of the boys. Just watch this clip where he and other male comedians joking alongside an uncomfortable Lily Allen:
Bottomline: Rape’s very funny until it isn’t. Then it becomes a very serious conspiracy theory against hapless men like Russell Brand. Commenting on Brand’s success back in 2010, a PR guru said: “Once you've got your fiefdom, it doesn't matter if you lose the opinion-formers.” And no one knows that better than Brand—and his fiefdom.
The Times UK investigation is behind a paywall, but The Guardian has a good overview. You can see scenes from the documentary here. BBC News reports on everyone who is fervently promising an investigation into the allegations—include the Beeb itself. Mint has everyone who has come out in support of Brand. If you desperately need a laugh, check out this spoof of Brand’s response vid. Also: this BBC News profile of his career.