Everyone I know who has ever spoken about Charlamagne has the same story about how much of a stand-up guy he is and how he gives other Black creatives a chance when no one else will. He’s fought to get people on the Breakfast Club and his MTV shows and podcasts. As a result, he has a network of influential black friends and voices who will ride for Charlamagne and swear by his genuineness. He’s earned that respect.
I’ve never met Charlamagne, but I know he has stuck his neck out to help get exposure to plenty of people in my circles. However, Charlamagne has also admitted to raping his wife in an old episode of his podcast, The Brilliant Idiots:
“‘I keep telling’ y’all. I’ve told y’all this over and over. It’s a lot of things guys did especially when we were young that were rape that we just didn’t consider rape. I’m married to my wife. Me and my wife dated for a whole year, she would not give me no pussy. Me and my wife hung out one Saturday night and she got sloppy drunk and passed out in my momma’s house and I got that pussy. She was f*cking me back and all that but she was really drunk. I asked her yesterday, ‘Yo, did I rape you the first time we ever had sex?’ And she goes, ‘I mean in hindsight, yeah…’”
That quote, from a few years ago, is disgusting and an admission of a criminal act of sexual assault. Charlemagne had his wife on The Breakfast Club Tuesday morning to backtrack from his details of the events that transpired, offering a murky understanding of alcohol’s role in consent. So at worst, he did, in fact, rape his wife and at best Charlemagne exhibited a reckless expression of the idea of rape. In this new age of finally holding men somewhat accountable for their indiscretions against women – no matter how long ago they happened – that resurfaced interview quote should be enough to engender the type of outrage to at least force him to take a leave of absence from his massively popular morning radio show. But the Charlemagne stories don’t end with that one anecdote.
There’s also the case of Charlamagne being accused of raping an underage girl, having sex with her when she was 15 and he was 22. The case was tossed out in 2002 because the alleged victim became uncooperative during the investigation. Charlamagne himself spoke on the situation during an interview with DJ Akademiks in 2013, and again asserted his innocence in a statement to Billboard:
“Over seventeen years ago, I pled guilty to ‘Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor’ and served 3 years of probation after irresponsibly hosting a party where alcohol was served to minors…I will forever regret my role in creating an environment that was less than safe. I cooperated with authorities, participated in multiple interviews and submitted to DNA testing. Ultimately the assault charge was dismissed because I had no physical contact with the alleged victim whatsoever.”
The cloud of sexual misconduct has followed Charlamagne for years so these cases coming back to light aren’t any surprise. What’s the surprise, though, has been the reactions — or lack thereof — from people who have prided themselves on speaking out about other instances of celebrities being accused of sexual assault. I’ve watched in awe at those who suddenly feel the need to either stay silent or outright defend Charlamagne.
The first person to stick her neck out for Charlamagne was Angela Rye – a political pundit and activist who I have grown to love, admire and respect over the past couple of years. She responded to an Instagram comment calling for her to denounce Charlamagne with this:
“My BROTHER is neither a molester nor a rapist. He never drugged anyone. He never touched the girl. Read more about the incident from 2001 in his book Black Privilege and note that he regrets having a party where underaged folks where [sic] drinking when he was young and dumb (that’s the ONLY thing he pled to…why? Because there was no physical evidence connecting him to the girl. Why? Because he never touched her. I truly pray for her piece of mind. Truly. However, she will not ‘come up’ on my brother off a lie. I stand for truth before I stand for anything else. God bless you and your family.”
Sadly, this oversimplification on Rye’s part reads more like defending a friend than taking accusations seriously or being remotely concerned with the well-being of the alleged victim. People like Rye are so quick to point out the all-too-true and sad fact that only two percent of women who claim to be the victims of sexual assault are ever lying. Rye also knows better than to insinuate that women who come forward about sexual assault are doing so for fame or a “come up.” Her reaction was disappointing to say the least.
Angela Rye speaks on a daily basis about police brutality and legal systems that let guilty parties off the hook while only furthering victimizing those harmed. She of all people should know that courts throwing cases out or finding people not guilty don’t necessarily constitute a true adjudication of the law. Furthermore, the notion that Charlamagne isn’t a rapist, as Rye claimed, is patently false if we are to trust his own story that he did, in fact, rape his wife.
Rye isn’t alone, though. On the most recent episode of the super-popular podcast, The Read, hosts Crissles and Kid Fury offered disappointing reactions. Crissles said that Charlamagne deserved to get “cursed the f*ck out” for what he said before focusing her ire on fans who were disappointed in her for not speaking out against his comments and actions. Meanwhile, Kid Fury, was mostly silent. Both hosts, whose podcast is focused on pop culture news and who had just spent the previous two hours talking about anything from Tyrese’s Hollywood angst to Stevie J’s marriage to Faith Evans, claimed that they didn’t follow news closely enough to have all the details in a timely fashion. It all seemed like a flimsy copout to holding Charlamagne – who has been a guest on their show, co-hosted TV shows with them and has posted pics with the hosts on social media — responsible. I have no doubt that if Charlamagne weren’t someone they were associated with, the hosts would have no problem leading their show by “reading” a public figure accused of sexual assault.
Then there are the people who have stayed silent: DJ Envy had all that energy defending women against Desus and Mero but doesn’t feel the need to call out Charlamagne. His fellow podcast hosts who have laughed along with him on his stories of drunk sex and Spanish Fly. Just this week, R. Kelly’s 19-minute tirade on his innocence was instantly rebuked to the point he was the top trending topic on Twitter as people demanding he go to jail are the same who haven’t even bothered to call Charlamagne’s history into question. I understand that he has helped accelerate plenty of careers and people may feel they owe him. And that’s totally fine – they may owe him some drinks, friendship and career opportunities that may arise — but nobody should feel like they owe him silence and defense in the face of rape accusations. That’s a bridge beyond “looking out” for a homie.
If there was ever a moment when keeping that same energy was necessary it’s in the instance of calling out men who assault women. There’s trauma associated with having a friend who turns out to be a predator or rapist, but that trauma pales in comparison to the victims of the actual assaults. If we are willing to demand justice for strangers, we have a responsibility to hold our friends just as accountable. Sure, we may lose friends or “political connects,” but it’s a small price to pay to make sure that we speak up for victims until we get the answers we need.
Maybe some or all of these people have pulled Charlamagne aside in private to talk to him, but publicly defending him — and being silent falls under that umbrella of support — isn’t helping anybody. Calling out sexual predators and people who victimize women should be a universal coda for strangers and friends alike. We owe it to victims. We owe it to our friends. And we owe it to the movement. Those who play favorites are only perpetuating rape culture and making it acceptable for the next predator to hurt people without any recourse.
Written By David Dennis, Jr.