Allegations against Rudy Giuliani and Russell Brand show sexual abuse is a selling point for MAGA

The quickest way to be a hero to Donald Trump fanboys? Face multiple, credible sexual assault allegations

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published September 22, 2023 6:01AM (EDT)

Rudy Giuliani and Russel Brand (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani and Russel Brand (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

"Sometimes, it's who you most suspect." That's what a friend of mine texted to a group chat after the Sunday Times, the Times and Channel 4 Dispatches released a disturbing investigative report documenting rape and other sexual allegations against British comedian Russell Brand. The actor denies the allegations, but unsurprisingly, most of the public does not seem to believe his denials. In part, it's because the evidence against Brand is overwhelming: five separate accusers, digital documentation, and a litany of witnesses ready to corroborate how Brand's behavior was an "open secret in radio and TV production." In part, it's because being a skeeze was always central to Brand's persona. And in part, it's because there have been comments over the years, from celebrities like Katy Perry and Kristen Bell, about Brand's predatory behavior. 

The Onion, as they often do, said it best, with the headline, "Nation Could Have Sworn Russell Brand Was Already Convicted Sex Offender."

And yet, like clockwork, the MAGA masses are rallying to Brand's side, treating these allegations like they are evidence that the "deep state" is trying to take Brand out for some vague reason.

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As Joy Saha documented at Salon, the usual suspects — Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro, and Jordan Peterson — defended Brand this week and floated conspiracy theories to distract from the serious allegations. Elon Musk, of course, got involved, writing on the platform he rebranded X, "They don't like competition." Greg Gutfeld elevated the conspiracy theory to Fox News.

History shows the quickest way to be a hero to the MAGA crowd is to be credibly accused of rape, ideally by a large number of women. 

Do any of these conspiracy theorists believe their own B.S.? I'm skeptical that any of these men actually mean a single word they say. They are, after all, arguing that Brand is such an all-powerful threat to the mysterious "They" that "They" organized a conspiracy of dozens of people — reporters, editors, fact-checkers, witnesses, and accusers — for the purpose of smearing an innocent man with allegations such as he "forced his penis down her throat" so hard she had to punch him to escape. That's a lot of work for the mighty "They" to take out one dude. Keeping that many conspirators quiet is nearly impossible. You'd think "They" would have simpler methods of dealing with people "They" want to get rid of. 

Nah, the more likely explanation is that Brand's defenders believe he did it. They're just angry that anyone would deny a man his patriarchy-given right to rape as many high school girls as he pleases. After all, this is the same crowd that supports Donald Trump, a man whose history of sexual assault has been put beyond dispute both in a court of law and by his own infamous tape bragging about how he likes to "grab them by the pussy." History shows the quickest way to be a hero to the MAGA crowd is to be credibly accused of rape, ideally by a large number of women. 

We see this in the same rally-round-the-pig response MAGA had to Andrew Tate, a man whose total worthlessness as a human being was evident long before he was arrested for rape and human trafficking in Romania. Tate, an "influencer" who preyed on school kids too young to know better, wasn't exactly coy about his misogyny or violent impulses before his arrest. He openly bragged about hitting women and trapping them in the house and even offered to teach his followers how to get into sex trafficking. 

Despite — or really because — of all this, the MAGA reaction to Tate's arrest was to treat the guy like a hero. Tucker Carlson interviewed him for Twitter and Elon Musk heavily hyped the video. Needless to say, it wasn't a hard-hitting interview exploring the evils of sexual violence. It was a softball meant to portray Tate, who is accused of choking women so hard he broke blood vessels in their faces, as the real victim. 

One could argue, I suppose, that this stampede of support for the worst possible men isn't meant as a celebration of rape per se. There's always the "just trolling" defense. In this case, the argument would be that it's just that MAGA types just really love to "trigger" the feminists. Throwing a pity party for an accused rapist is a virtual form of ponytail-pulling, in this rendering. But even if that were true, it's ultimately a distinction without difference. Once you're throwing ticker tape parades for sexual predators, it really stops mattering if it's just out of anti-feminist spite. 

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The new allegations against Rudy Giuliani are a grotesque reminder that, for much of MAGA, Trump's appeal was due in large part to the perception that he created an atmosphere where open predation towards women was acceptable. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide who has since spoken out about the coup plotting she witnessed under Trump, has a new book out. In it, she accuses Giuliani of groping her on January 6, 2021, seemingly because he was excited by the unspooling Capitol insurrection. To add insult to injury, she describes John Eastman, another coup plotter, as flashing a "leering grin" while Giuliani manhandled her. 

Giuliani, for his part, is denying the allegations, and his denials are being greeted with a great deal of scoffing. After all, he's currently tied up in litigation with a former aide accusing him of bullying her into unwanted sexual intercourse. His accuser, Noelle Dunphy, has produced grotesque receipts, including a tape of Giuliani declaring, "Come here, big tits. Your tits belong to me."

Even without the Dunphy lawsuit, Hutchinson's claims were believable simply because she was working under Donald Trump. We've all heard the "Access Hollywood" tape in which Trump brags, at length, about how he enjoys sexually assaulting women. It makes perfect sense that he would attract compatriots who craved an environment where men can just grope whatever woman they wished. The least surprising thing in the world is if these men saw young and pretty aides like Hutchinson as party favors Trump was offering up to these co-conspirators. 

There's a tendency in the mainstream press to talk about rape and sexual abuse as something "everybody" disapproves of. When a credibly accused assailant gets a surge of support, the assumption is these folks believe the accused is innocent. When it's impossible to imagine they believe that — no one can think Trump is innocent — then the assumption is that the sexual predation is a flaw that supporters are reluctantly accepting because they like other traits of the accused. 

But there is a third possibility, one that this evidence shows is the likeliest one: sexual abuse as a vice signal. 

Being seen as a sexual abuser makes a person more popular with some on the right, especially the extremely online MAGA set. It's a subculture of people who valorize bullying and hate women, especially women who they think are uppity. Sexual violence has been a primary outlet for that urge to humiliate women and put them "in their place." This isn't about a sincere belief that every accused rapist is a victim of a "deep state" conspiracy. It's just that MAGA's knee-jerk urge when they hear these allegations of sexual violence is to side with the perpetrator. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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