Brand—who is repositioning himself as an unconventional political firebrand—made headlines this week after an an angry confrontation with a Channel 4 journalist. While delivering a petition supporting a group of London tenants facing eviction due to gentrification, the 39-year-old was questioned on camera over how much he paid in rent himself.
Brand retorted that he was “part of the solution” and the journalist was “a snide” for asking the question; footage of the argument subsequently went viral online.
It was this altercation that spurred the front-page piece that has now drawn Brand’s ire. The Sun article included a still from the video and claimed that the sometime-comedian-sometime-activist “pays £76k a year to tax-dodge landlords,” despite “[ranting] against high rents and tax avoidance.” “We brand Russell Brand hypocrite,” the headline reads.
Brand’s response has been swift, promising to sue The Sun and owner Rupert Murdoch in a tweet, saying he will donate the winnings to New Era Estate—the tenants threatened with eviction whom he was campaigning on behalf of—and Justice for the 96 (JFT96), a reference to those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
It’s not clear whether the lawsuit will bear fruit: “Whether it is defensible as a fair comment depends on whether it was expressed as an honestly held belief on the facts of this situation,” journalist and media law expert David Banks told HuffPost UK. “Truth as a defence, especially in accusations as nebulous as hypocrisy, has always been a notoriously difficult defence to establish.”
However, as the Independent notes, Brand has previously sued the tabloid and won. When The Sun printed the claim that he had been unfaithful to a partner, he won “substantial damages.”
H/T Independent | Photo via WEBN-TV/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)