When comedian-turned-conservative influencer Russell Brand preemptively denied sexual assault allegations on Friday, he jumped on a conspiracy theory that quickly gained traction among his supporters and other far-right voices: That the media had a bias in publishing stories about him motives. .
Deep skepticism about the media has become a staple of many conservatives over the past decade, and Brand’s invocation of that skepticism quickly found support among members of his online conservative cohort, notably Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson.
The Times published it investigative report Saturday, carried out in conjunction with The Sunday Times and Channel 4, in which women have accused him of sexual assaults that allegedly took place between 2006 and 2013. Brand’s management agency, Tavistock Wood Management, cut ties with him soon after the news broke openly. , who wrote that it was “terribly misled”.
Brand posted his response video on YouTube, X and the conservative video site Rumble, alluding to the message to come and warning his followers of its truth. Brand denied the allegations and claimed that all of his sexual relationships in the past were consensual.
YouTube said on Tuesday that it had blocked Brando from making money on its platform following allegations of sexual assault. The online platform said in a statement that it had “suspended monetization” on Brando’s channel for violating its “Creator Responsibility Policy.”
“If an author’s off-platform behavior harms our users, employees, or ecosystem, we will take action to protect the community,” YouTube said.
The decision is likely to come as a blow to Brando, who has 6.6 million subscribers on YouTube, where he they spread conspiracy theories about issues like Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. He has 11.2 million followers on X, formerly Twitter, and 1.4 million on Rumble, where he is among the most followed accounts.
However, conservative internet figures followed Brando’s lead, but used conspiracy theories to contest the allegations and found a largely friendly audience on platforms that had moved away from content moderation.
X’s owner, Elon Musk, and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson were quick to defend Brand, suggesting the allegations were made because of Brand’s criticism of the media.
“Of course. They don’t like competition,” Musk he replied to Brando’s video.
Carlson more directly connected the allegations against Brando to his politics.
“Criticize pharmaceutical companies, question the war in Ukraine, and you can be pretty sure this will happen,” Carlson wrote.
Neither Carlson nor Musk elaborated on the allegations. This was reported by The Times that the four women who accused Brando of sexual assault in their investigative report had not previously known each other. The reporters spent several years interviewing hundreds of people, the report also said.
Some other conservative influencers, including Ian Miles Cheong, joined the backlash, with Cheong comparing the allegations against Brand to those made against other high-profile men.
Brand, once a popular mainstream comedian who starred in films including “Get Him to the Greek” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” has emerged as a popular figure in conservative circles in recent years for his direct-to-camera videos in which he takes aim at many targets of the far right.
Brand has made criticism of the media a core part of his reporting, noting in his response video that he seeks to “criticize, attack and undermine the news”.
That criticism resonated at X, especially among Musk and his allies, who were also ardent critics of the media. Musk has tweeted in support of Brando at least three times since Friday, published on Sunday evening: “I support Russell Brand. The man is not evil.”
Andrew Tate, a men’s rights influencer who is awaiting trial in Romania after being charged with suspected human trafficking and rape, posted “Welcome to the club” on X and tagged Brando’s account on Saturday above an image that refers to “crazy b —- accusation.”
Jake Shields, a former UFC fighter who has adopted conservative views online and has nearly 400,000 followers on X, repeatedly tweeted about the allegations over the weekend, including one post suggesting the Times article contained “false rape allegations,” saying: “It would be nice to see some of these girls face long prison terms.”
X views metrics that were subject to some skepticism, showed that many of the efforts to challenge the allegations had gained considerable traction. times’ own thread on X about the investigation has garnered 15.5 million views, according to the platform, a quarter of the views Brando’s cautionary video garnered.
A search for “Russell Brand” — still a hot topic on Monday — turned up posts questioning those allegations. None of the top 20 posts in the search results included links to any reports of new allegations.
Instead, the top search results for “Russell Brand” on X suggested that Brand is “under attack” for his views on Covid-19 and Ukraine. Many of the posts also criticize the mainstream and older media in general, claiming that the media has framed Brando as “guilty” and provided no evidence for the allegations against him.