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George Takei Denies Sexual Assault Allegations, and Then It Gets Even Worse

All our heroes are dead, we got ourselves instead.

Actor George Takei is facing accusations of sexually assaulting a male model in the 1980s, and has vehemently pushed back. But the tactics he’s taking to do so are hugely damaging.

In response to the reports that emerged over the weekend, wherein former model Scott Brunton accused Takei of groping him while he was unconscious at Takei’s house in 1982, Takei has been adamant about dismissing the claims. Saying that he is “shocked and bewildered” by the story, he asserts that the events did “simply did not occur.” He doesn’t even know that guy! “I have wracked [sic] my brain to ask if I remember Mr Brunton, and I cannot say I do.”

Mind you, that’s an attempt to make this whole thing contingent on Takei’s recollection, with the further suggestion that Brunton is not telling the truth. Takei actually wrote, “Right now it is a he said/he said situation.” Yes, he did that.

Yet, as the Guardian points out:

“This happened a long time ago but I have never forgotten it,” [Brunton] said. The Hollywood Reporter said “four longtime friends of Brunton” had said he confided to them about the alleged incident “years ago”.

If you recall, Anthony Rapp’s account of his encounter with Kevin Spacey at age 14 followed much of the same course: he never spoke publically until post-Weinstein, but had confided over the years to close friends and family. Brunton has nothing to gain from these allegations save a harsh media spotlight upon him. Takei’s flat-out dismissal is discouraging and ultimately extremely harmful to the conversation and the importance of believing victims.

Surely there was a far more graceful and conducive way for him to respond: Takei has been outspoken about sexual assault and harassment, especially angry at Kevin Spacey for attempting to “deflect” accusations by coming out as a gay man, and yet Takei has assumed a stance of deflection as well. He might have said something like, “Although I do not recall this incident, I’ve reached out to Mr. Brunton in the hopes of having a conversation and hearing what he has to say. The experiences of those who have been subject to sexual assault should always be listened to.” Something like that. Anything like that.

Instead, over the weekend, Takei doubled down with his damaging attempt at damage control. As Mic reports, in a now-deleted Tweet, Takei seemed to blame Russia for turning up the heat against him. Yes, Russia.

The reality of our world today is that Russian bots really are running rampant on social media, and they often are dedicated to amplifying stories that fire up Trump’s base—they’ve had a field day with “liberal” Hollywood elite as sexual assaulters (while curiously avoiding promoting news about conservative abusers like Roy Moore).

I have little doubt that Russian bots really did engage with the Takei content. But that’s neither here nor there nor relevant, at all, because without the accusations at hand, the bots would have nothing to amplify about Takei. It’s Takei himself who provided any kind of fodder for the bots to run with. And the “opposition bots are being mean and trying to silence me” claim, which seemed like an attempt to make himself into a victim and a martyr, was so egregious and unnecessary that he deleted it.

All of this is further complicated by Takei’s interview with Howard Stern back in October, which seems to imply that the incident Brunton alleges most definitely could have occurred in Takei’s history. Per The Huffington Post:

When Stern inquired if Takei had ever been involved in nonconsensual sexual activity, an uncomfortable silence followed, as the actor attempted to laugh off the question.

“Did you ever grab anyone by the cock against their will?” Stern asked at one point.

“Some people that are kind of … umm … skittish or maybe … um … afraid and you’re trying to persuade…” Takei said.

“No, it wasn’t at work,” he said. “It was either in my home ― they came to my home.”

Stern then tried to get Takei to clarify further, asking if he ever gave someone “a gentle squeeze on the balls.”

“More than a gentle,” Takei replied. “But it didn’t involve power over the other.”

It’s clear from his own account that Takei has, in the past, made sexual moves at his home on men who were “skittish or maybe afraid” in an attempt to “persuade” them, calling his own gropings “more than gentle.” This is exactly in line with Scott Brunton’s story.  How could Takei have spoken so frankly about this behavior—which, in October, he clearly did not believe constituted nonconsensual activity—and now take this tack in regards to Brunton’s allegations? Maybe he really doesn’t remember Brunton, but Brunton sure as hell remembers Takei. Takei’s denial does nothing but further a culture of victim-blaming and our old tactics of casting doubt on a victim’s believability and personal experience.

There are a hundred thousand ways George Takei could have addressed this situation that could have been seen as helpful, healing, and working to forward our increasing awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual violence, espcially at it exists across gender and sexuality. Instead, in his backpedaling, he has done nothing of the kind. In the years since Takei rose to being a sort of pop icon through his wildly popular social media following, we have come to expect far, far more of him. My first reaction when I saw the reports this weekend was, “Oh no, not George!” But that sentiment fast became fleeting as Takei’s response took on the worst and also most mind-bending reactionary devices possible.

It’s not Russia, dude. This is all on you.

(via Mic, image: screengrab)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.