Russell Brand, the British comedian-turned-influencer, has been accused of rape, sexual assault and abuse based on allegations from four women who knew him over a seven-year period at the height of his fame.
The claims were reported on Saturday by The Sunday Times and its sister newspaper The Times as well as Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ programme.
In the coverage, one woman alleged she had been raped, while three others accused Brand of sexual assault. One of the women also said he had been physically and emotionally abusive. Brand has also been accused of grooming and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old.
Brand has denied all of the allegations and said that all of his relationships have been consensual.
Before the stories were published, Brand posted a video online denying the claims, saying they had been outlined in two “extremely disturbing letters” from a “mainstream media” television company and a newspaper.
In the video, he didn’t identify the news organisations by name but said, “Amidst this litany of astonishing, rather baroque attacks are some very serious allegations that I absolutely refute,” he said.
“These allegations pertain to the time when I was working in the mainstream, when I was in the newspapers all the time, when I was in the movies and, as I have written about extensively in my books, I was very, very promiscuous”, he continued, adding, “Now during that time of promiscuity the relationships I had were absolutely, always consensual. I was always transparent about that then, almost too transparent, and I am being transparent about it now as well."
Brand also suggested that the reports were part of a coordinated attack designed to discredit him because of his sometimes controversial views.
He has been widely criticised for expressing scepticism about COVID-19 vaccines and for choosing to interview contentious podcasters including the likes of Joe Rogan.
“To see that transparency metastasized into something criminal, that I absolutely deny, makes me question is there [sic] another agenda at play,” Brand said.
The women who have made the allegation explained that they only felt ready to tell their stories after being approached by reporters.
Some cited Brand’s newfound prominence as an online wellness influencer as a factor in their decision to speak.
"Urgently looking into the issues rasied"
The Metropolitan Police responded to the accusations, saying it encourages victims of sexual assault to contact the force.
"We are aware of media reporting of a series of allegations of sexual assault. At this time, we have not received any reports in relation to this. If anyone believes they have been the victim of a sexual assault, no matter how long ago it happened, we would encourage them to contact police,” said a spokesperson for the force.
"We spoke with The Sunday Times on Saturday 16 September. We will be making further approaches to The Sunday Times and Channel 4 to ensure that any victims of crime who they have spoken with are aware of how they may report any criminal allegations to police."
The BBC said in a statement: "The documentary and associated reports contained serious allegations, spanning a number of years. Russell Brand worked on BBC radio programmes between 2006 and 2008 and we are urgently looking into the issues raised."
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: "We have asked the production company who produced the programmes for Channel 4 to investigate these allegations and report their findings properly and satisfactorily to us. Channel 4 is also conducting its own internal investigation, and we would encourage anyone who is aware of such behaviour to contact us directly."
Elon Musk, controversial influencer Andrew Tate and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson were among those to react to the claims on social media this weekend, with posts appearing to support the 48-year-old comic.
Who is Russell Brand?
Brand rose to fame as a stand-up comic in Britain in the early 2000s, which led to starring roles on Channel 4 and later BBC Radio, where he capitalised on a reputation for outrageous behaviour and risque banter.
He later made the jump to Hollywood, appearing in films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall in 2008 and the remake of Arthur in 2011. Brand achieved more fame still during his marriage to US pop star Katy Perry which lasted from 2010 to 2012.
More recently, he has transformed himself into a political commentator and influencer.
He posts YouTube videos to his 6.6 million subscribers on subjects including personal freedom and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shortly after the allegations were revealed, Russell Brand chose to go ahead with a gig as part of his latest tour.
Addressing a crowd of some 2,000 fans at a London venue on Saturday night, he told the crowd: "There are obviously some things that I absolutely cannot talk about and I appreciate that you will understand".
At the beginning of the show, part of his Bipolarisation tour, he walked onto the stage to the song ‘You Don't Own Me’, a 1960s feminist anthem performed by American singer-songwriter Lesley Gore.
According to audience reports, he was distracted throughout but nonetheless ended the performance with a standing ovation, apparently lasting a few minutes.