Broadcasters have launched urgent investigations into the historical conduct of Russell Brand while the Metropolitan police has appealed for any potential victims to come forward after the comedian was accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse.
The BBC said it was “urgently looking into the issues raised” by the publication of allegations over the weekend that Brand harmed four women, including claims that he raped a woman in Los Angeles and sexually assaulted a British schoolgirl aged 16. Channel 4 has also pulled all of Brand’s content from its streaming service while it investigates.
The claims were published in the Sunday Times after a years-long investigation into the comedian, alongside Channel 4’s Dispatches. They relate to the period between 2006 and 2013, when the self-confessed sex addict was at the height of his fame, working for BBC Radio 2 and Channel 4 and starring in Hollywood films.
Brand denied the claims in a video posted online before they were published, saying he was facing a “litany of extremely egregious and aggressive attacks”.
The foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said on Sunday that the investigation prompted wider questions for the entertainment industry and that early intervention was needed when allegations involved a power imbalance.
While he did not comment specifically on Brand, he told BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “I think there are some real challenges where you have these very, very acute differentials in power, whether that be in the entertainment industry, whether that be in politics, and we see this in the commercial world as well.
“I think we have to be particularly careful when we listen to the voices of the people who are relatively powerless because we, I think, collectively have missed opportunities to do the right thing and intervene much, much earlier, and we’ve got to be better at this.”
The comedian Katherine Ryan has previously spoken out on an episode of Louis Theroux’s BBC Interviews series about how she confronted a comedian whose “predatory behaviour” was an open secret in the industry. Ryan has never identified the comedian in question.
The Metropolitan police said it had “not received any reports” in relation to a series of allegations of sexual assault by Brand but had spoken to the Sunday Times on Saturday and would be making further approaches 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 force added: “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.”
Brand, 48, who has lately recast himself as a health guru, is in the middle of a national standup comedy tour. He is due to appear in Windsor, Wolverhampton and Plymouth in the coming days, but there have been calls online for the venues to cancel the shows.
Channel 4 and the BBC are both conducting internal investigations about allegations relating to behaviour while he was working for the broadcasters.
A BBC spokesperson said in a statement that the 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.”
Brand was also accused of pursuing audience members for sex while presenting Big Brother spin-off shows EFourum and Big Brother’s Big Mouth on Channel 4. A researcher claimed that concerns about Brand’s behaviour while he worked on the shows in 2004 and 2005 were reported to production managers at Endemol, the company that produced the programmes.
Channel 4 said it was “appalled” to learn of the “deeply troubling allegations” and was conducting its own internal investigations.
Banijay UK, which bought Endemol in 2020, said that it had “launched an urgent internal investigation and will cooperate with any requests for information from broadcast partners and external agencies … We also encourage anybody who feels that they were affected by Brand’s behaviour while working on these productions to contact us in confidence.”
The comedian London Hughes claimed “there’s not a single comedian in the UK” who wasn’t aware of Brand’s behaviour. Hughes said she personally wasn’t aware that the allegations included rape, but “I always had the understanding that he was, for lack of a better word, ‘dodgy’ and I should avoid him.”
Another comedian, Jo Caulfield, wrote: “In whatever industry you work in, keep speaking out. Predatory behaviour and abuse is wrong.”
Appearing on the Channel 4 Dispatches programme that revealed the allegations against Brand, the comedian Daniel Sloss said: “I know for many many years women have been warning each other about Russell.” He claimed there were “many stories with varying degrees of severity” but his fame and status meant he wasn’t held to account.
Labour MP Jess Phillips said that she found watching the Dispatches documentary “harrowing” and hit out at those on social media who were questioning the accounts of women who made accusations against Brand.
“Even somebody as hardened as me – I deal with rape cases, abuse cases – I found watching the Dispatches … really harrowing,” she said in an interview with Channel 4 News.
“Now these women, rather than Russell Brand himself and the production companies where he was working throughout that period, are going to feel like they have questions that they have to answer. They’re going to feel like they have to prove themselves.”
She also said that she was unsurprised by the fact that people turned up to see Brand perform at the Troubadour theatre in Wembley, north-west London, as part of his stand-up comedy tour on Saturday night. “It doesn’t surprise me that men fail up, specifically in that industry. It just makes it look like society accepts that women have to tolerate a certain amount of abuse.”
Amnesty International has urged women to come forward if they have any concerns about Brand’s behaviour during his participation in two of the charity’s standup comedy events. In a statement, the charity said it found the allegations “shocking and distressing” and that it did not have a relationship with the comedian. Brand took part in the charity’s Secret Policeman’s Ball events in 2006 and 2012.
The charity said that while “no complaints or concerns” were raised at the time of the events, it was “very aware of the barriers women face in raising complaints of sexual assault, and would encourage any women to let us know if there is anything that they experienced at that time that is of concern”.
It followed the announcement by a charity that supports vulnerable women recovering from addiction that it would sever its links with Brand. The Trevi women and children’s charity said it was “deeply saddened and upset” by the news and had ended its association with Brand and his charitable fund, the Stay Free Foundation.
Brand has received words of support from Twitter founder, Elon Musk, as well as Andrew Tate, who is awaiting a trial for rape and human trafficking.
Brand has been contacted for comment. In a video statement released on Friday, he claimed the reporting was a coordinated attack by the mainstream media and that the sex was consensual, saying: “Amidst this litany of astonishing, rather baroque attacks are some very serious allegations that I absolutely refute.”
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