The Sun has been ridiculed for conducting a poll to prove that Britain agrees that Russell Brand is a hypocrite, as well as comparing the comic to a Brussels sprout... and saying that no-one likes him.
The newspaper escalated its campaign against Brandafter experiencing a backlash when it labelled him a hypocrite in a front page story on Wednesday about the tax activities... of his landlord.
The tabloid alleged that Brand rents his London property from a company based in the British Virgin Isles, a recognised tax haven, and therefore the comedian was somehow a “hypocrite” for protesting on behalf of the low-income residents of the New Era Estate in Hoxton, East London.
The attempt to label Brand a hypocrite was quickly mocked, with Twitter applying the #TheSunLogic hashtag to point out the claim might have been slightly wide of the mark.
Stop talking about combatting starvation - you have a fridge full of food! Hypocrite! #TheSunLogic— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) December 3, 2014
My mum pays her taxes but she bought a Take That album. Hypocrite #TheSunLogic— Billy MacInnes (@billymac1964) December 3, 2014
After Brand announced he would sue the paper, The Sun conducted a poll yesterday that surprisingly concluded that "the public sides with us" - throwing in the extra blow that 64% of those surveyed also think he's not funny.
The YouGov research asked 574 people for their opinion, which The Sun claims "leaves Brand’s “Man of the People” image shattered."
The story also mocked up Brand as a Brussels sprout with a green face, with a caption saying "Russell sprout, the vegetable no one likes."
Its original story slammed Brand for speaking out against tax-dodging businesses and the cost of living, while renting a flat for £76,000 a year from a landlord registered to pay tax overseas.
The newspaper's tactics today were viewed by some as petty and desperate, and Brand appeared unimpressed as he mocked the poll in a tweet on Thursday night, saying "Where d'ya get this stat? Liverpool? Hacking into dead children's phones?"
Despite polling 574 people, The Sun - which has previously awarded Brand its 'shagger of the year' award - could apparently only find one new voice to comment on Brand's alleged hypocrisy: SOAS university economics professor Lawrence Saez who called Brand: “B-list UK celebrity, A-list world-class hypocrite.”
It also repeated a comment from its original story from Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, the only person quoted, saying Brand was “very quick to criticise accountable and elected politicians, but he seems to be rather shy about discussing his own affairs. This bears all the hallmarks of hypocrisy.”
Brand had revealed previously that he rented his pad in Shoreditch in an altercation with Channel 4's Paraic O'Brien.
Speaking to Brand outside Downing Street at a protest calling to keep Hoxton's New Era Estate affordable to the current residents, the interviewer 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. You’re a snide.
“Blessedly, I can afford my rent and I’m prepared to stand up for people that can’t.”
Twitter commenters certainly seemed to be siding with Brand this morning, and it seemed that The Sun - the self-styled paper of the people - might have taken on too much by attacking 'man of the people' Brand.
The Sun's doing a great job of making me like Russell Brand far more than I ever thought I would.— John Eccleston (@JohnEccleston) December 5, 2014
The Sun's poll tells us '68% say Russell Brand is a hypocrite'. Now they should ask 'Is Murdoch an arsehole?' He'll smash that score.— Mark Steel (@mrmarksteel) December 4, 2014
Russell Brand a hypocrite for caring about poor people when he's rich? Surely the rich people who don't care or help are the problem— Richard K Herring (@Herring1967) December 4, 2014
If it's a choice between Russell Brand and the Sun, I'll go for the one who didn't tell malicious lies about Hillsborough.— geordiepolyglot (@geordiepolyglot) December 5, 2014
I like the way the Sun have randomly asked whether Russell Brand is funny. He's not, obviously, but this tax thing is still weird.— Carole (@DeathByJigsaws) December 5, 2014
Love the way the Sun is going after Russell Brand .It just shows the verminous approach they have.Running public polls on then guy?FFS— Gary Reilly (@GaryTheAlba) December 5, 2014
Brand himself had earlier hit back at The Sun and its ageing proprietor Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday night.
“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 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.”
Brand went on to skewer the octogenarian media mogul, who “managed to run up a tax bill over eleven years, saving £350 million by using totally legal tax loopholes”.
“He did this by using legal tax havens, so the law has got to change. I’m not saying these people are doing anything illegal, but it’s a disgrace that those things are legal.”
“If they call me a hypocrite for something my landlords does, what can I call him for something he does himself?”
Previous legal tussles between Brand and The Sun have come out in the comedian's favour. In May 2014, Brand accepted "substantial" libel damages over the false allegation he had cheated on his then-girlfriend Jemima Khan.
Brand paid the damages, according to his lawyer, to "what he considers to be diverse, just and decent causes", including to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.