MailOnline columnist Piers Morgan has strongly backed The Sun's treatment of comedian Russell Brand in a scathing article, calling the activist a "revolting hypocrite" and comparing him to "sex maniac" Bill Cosby.
In his column for the website on Thursday morning entitled "The TV tantrum that shows why 'revolutionary' Russell Brand is really just a revolting hypocrite", Morgan wrote: "Like another sex maniac comedian, Bill Cosby, he thinks his power and fame entitles him to behave in a rankly hypocritical way - and shut down any attempt by the media to challenge it."
It is a somewhat uncomfortable comparison. Cosby, who starred in the 'The Cosby Show', has faced allegations that he drugged and sexually assaulted more than a dozen women but has for the most refused to address the issue, shutting down an AP interview when a reporter asked about the claims.
Several networks, including Netflix, have since shelved projects featuring Cosby, but the 77-year-old broke his twitter silence yesterday to thank some of his supporters.
Morgan, the former Daily Mirror and News of the World editor, added that his advice to the two comedians is "polar opposite."
"Bill Cosby, for the sake of all the women who claim he drugged and raped them, should start talking. Russell Brand, for his own sake as much as ours, should just shut up."
.@piersmorgan describing Russell Brand in the Mail today: "Like another sex maniac comedian, Bill Cosby..." How do you possibly equate them?— David Elkin (@ddElkin) December 3, 2014
In recent weeks, more than a dozen women have accused Cosby of drugging and sexually abusing them. Cosby's attorneys previously have issued statements characterising some of the claims as previously discredited and others as untrue. Cosby has not been charged in connection with any of the allegations,
The furore surrounding Brand first began when the comic clashed with a Channel 4 News interviewer when the journalist asked him about the price of his own house, as he joined hundreds of residents from an east London estate at a protest outside Downing Street.
Tenants in the New Era estate in Hoxton, which was originally built as affordable housing for workers, say they could face homelessness after US investment firm Westbrook Partners bought it. Speaking to Brand outside Downing Street, Channel 4 reporter Paraic O'Brien suggested that part of the housing problem is the super-rich buying property in London, asking, "how much did you pay for your place?"
"It’s rented,” shot back Brand, before telling the reporter, "I’m not here to talk about my rent, mate." He later called the reporter "a snide".
The Sun the alleged yesterday that Brand's rented property was owned by a off-shore company based in the British Virgin Islands called KKY PTY Ltd, and called the comedian a 'hypocrite' on their front page.
The tabloid alleged he paid £76,000 a year in rent. On his Twitter account, Brand said he planned to take legal action over the piece, but has not specified what exactly about the story is legally actionable, but he could potentially have a libel case for the allegation of hypocrisy.
“I just pay my rent to an estate agent like everyone else,” said Brand on his online news show The Trews, before lambasting the newspaper's owner Rupert Murdoch over his own tax dealings.
“Rupert Murdoch must be really confident in the area of tax… they’ve got some serious resources and they’ve run this massive thing [front page splash] and what they’ve come up with is his [Brand's] landlord doesn’t pay tax," said Brand.
"That’s like the bit in the Life Of Brian where the Roman Garrison goes into the flat of the People’s Front of Judea and come back with one spoon.”
But former CNN presenter Morgan was firmly in The Sun's camp: "Brand has repeatedly spoken out against both the high costs of living in London and the importance of cracking down on tax-avoiding firms," dubbing Brand the "self-appointed Che Guevara of comedy" and accusing him of staring "menacingly" at O'Brien.
Stop talking about combatting starvation - you have a fridge full of food! Hypocrite! #TheSunLogic— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) December 3, 2014
And more tweets followed:
My mum pays her taxes but she bought a Take That album. Hypocrite #TheSunLogic— Billy MacInnes (@billymac1964) December 3, 2014
Morgan defended The Sun's stance. "He [Brand] pays this vast sum to the very same type of shameless, rich, greedy, tax-avoiding firm that he wants us all to hate," the columnist said.
"As Brand wrote in his own latest book, Revolutions (sic): ‘If they don’t pay tax, we’ll reclaim their assets and give them to the people that work there.’
"So presumably we can now look forward to him reclaiming his own house and giving it to the protestors? There’s always a tipping point in every revolution, good or bad, and I fear Mr Brand just reached his."
- Brand Attacks Murdoch Over Proprietor's Tax Dealings Following Sun's 'Hypocrite' Splash
- The Sun's Russell Brand 'Hypocrite' Front Page Is Confusing
- Brand 'Annoyed' At 'Snide' Reporter Whose Questioning Led To Downing Street Standoff
- Twitter Mocks Sun's Russell Brand 'Hypocrite' Attack With Hilarious #TheSunLogic Hashtag
- Russell Brand Calls Reporter 'A Snide' Over Hostile Questions About The Price Of His Property
Brand has defenders in some quarters of the national press - notably former Independent editor Simon Kelner - who described Brand's flat as "exactly the sort of place you'd expect someone who's successful in the media to live in".
"The Sun said he was a 'vacuous soundbite on legs', while the Daily Mail said his 'anti-capitalist credentials' were demolished," Kelner noted, but added: "In which case, every well-known personage who uses his or her fame to shine a light on injustice should be branded a hypocrite, too, and their views can be easily disregarded.
"Is Bob Geldof's work in drawing to the world's attention famine and disease in Africa rendered because he, like Brand, is a very rich man who likes some of the finer things in life?
"Russell Brand is a man of strong beliefs, and he's not afraid to employ his fame to get his views across. And in the end, he's succeeded in getting more people - including the Prime Minister - to recognise the issues on the New Era estate. At that point, it really doesn't matter where he lives.: