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Tiffany Haddish responds to controversial video: Comedic sketch wasn’t funny at all.
Yesterday, comedian Tiffany Haddish issued a statement in response to the allegations of child sexual abuse that have been plastered across blogs and social media for the past few days.
According to reports, Haddish, Kevin Hart's protege whose breakout performance in the 2017 film, Girls Trip, catapulted her career, was named alongside fellow comedian Aries Spears in a lawsuit brought by unnamed siblings, John and Jane Doe. The siblings are alleging that they've been traumatized for life after participating in a 2013/ 2014 skit that, to the casual observer, was, in the least, grossly inappropriate.
The plaintiffs were said to have been 7 and 14 years old at the time when the suggestive video titled "Through a Pedophile's Eyes" was produced and uploaded to the Funny or Die website where it remained for some time before it was removed.
While Haddish has broken her silence, albeit late, her co-accused, Aries Spears, is yet to respond.
Funny or Die, though not named in the lawsuit, has also issued a statement to NBC News, distancing itself from the allegations:
"Funny or Die found this video absolutely disgusting and would never produce such content. We were not involved with the conceptualization, development, funding or production of the video. It was uploaded to the site as user generated content and was removed in 2018 immediately after becoming aware of its existence."
Meanwhile, Haddish and Spears' attorneys, in fighting form, strongly dismissed the allegations as "meritless", "bogus claims" and an attempt at a "shakedown" which was bound to fail. Then the video went viral on social media, and while the lawyers may be fierce legal fighters and sharpshooters with a laundry list of top tier clients in a court of law, they are no PR mavens. And Haddish's and Spears' reputation is being judged in the court of public opinion.
When your career is built on your universal likeability, it only takes one controversy to topple you from your pedestal. And, unfortunately, when the topic is as triggering as allegations of child sexual abuse and pedophilia, the strong words of an attorney dismissing the claims may not be enough to help the image of the co-accused.
And while it can be argued that there is little Haddish or Spears can do to salvage their images at this moment until the matter is addressed in a court of law, I think Haddish's team realized that a personal and at least softer response from Haddish herself was required in the tight rope dance to manage her reputation. Thus, Haddish's statement was released yesterday, addressing the allegations, acknowledging that the concept for the film was ill-advised as well as her agreement to appear in it, and adroitly avoiding any remarks which may be construed as a swipe at her accusers until the matter is adjudged by law.
"Unfortunately, because there is an ongoing legal case, there's very little that I can say right now. But, clearly, while this sketch was intended to be comedic, it wasn't funny at all- and I deeply regret having agreed to act in it."
Haddish is learning the hard way, it appears, that while comedians, like writers, sometimes claim license to explore a range of topics under the guise of artistic expression, some issues are never going to be funny or relatable. This was one. She is also learning, as we have all had to learn on different scales at different times in our lives, that we are are judged for outcomes and not the intent of our actions.
Spears, on the other hand, it appears, remains reticent, a completely different communication strategy, but, after putting his foot in his mouth recently particularly following the derisive comments he made about Lizzo's health and weight, intending again to be funny, statements which some may argue were the precursor to the resurfacing of the allegations and viral video clips on social media, I don't think that there is much Spears can say to endear himself to his audience.
In fact, it's quite possible that Spears feels much like the poop emoji he compared Lizzo to.
As we go forward, this would be an interesting case to follow as both Haddish and Spears call upon their strongest representatives to prepare for battle in the courts of law and public opinion. At this moment, while one cannot comment on the civil suit and the factors that will determine whether it goes forward or not, as the case plays out in the court of public opinion, I think it's safe to say, things are not looking good for the duo.