VOX POPULI: Scott Brunton, You Owe George Takei an Apology

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By GUY AOKI

As a columnist who covered the Scott Brunton/George Takei controversy in my “Into the Next Stage” column (“Uh-Oh…,” Nov. 16, 2017), I took great interest in Shane Snow’s article in The Observer (“George Takei’s Accuser Has Changed His Story of Drugging and Assault,” May 24).

After interviewing Brunton and his friends, those who knew Takei, and legal and medical experts for months, Snow concluded that “in his effort to be listened to, [Brunton had] fabricated some things.”

Scott Brunton

The former model’s ever-changing story of what happened when he allegedly went to the “Star Trek” actor’s apartment in 1981 and his supposed follow-up conversations with Takei in 1994 are so full of contradictions and outright lies that it would never stand up in court — either in the legal or public arena — even if the statute of limitations hadn’t long ago expired.

Let’s review the contradictions: In the initial Nov. 10 article, Brunton told The Hollywood Reporter that after the actor (then 44) served him (then 24) two drinks, he got dizzy. He awakened to find Takei “groping my crotch and trying to get my underwear off and feeling me up at the same time.”

Yet to Snow, he admitted he didn’t remember Takei touching his genitals. Snow noted Brunton “didn’t use the word ‘grope’ and didn’t indicate that Takei had touched his genitals, either directly or through his underwear or had grabbed his buttocks.”

“I asked him to clarify the issue. ‘Did he touch your genitals?’

“You know…probably…’ Brunton replied after some hesitation. ‘He was clearly on his way to…to…to going somewhere.’

“We shared a pause.

“‘So…you don’t remember him touching your genitals?’

“Brunton confessed that he did not remember any touching.”

Brunton told The Oregonian that when Takei made a move on him, Takei was shirtless. But he told Snow the actor was wearing a short-sleeve shirt.

In his interview with Snow, Brunton now says he was NOT sexually assaulted:

“‘You felt betrayed,’ I offered. ‘Did you consider it an attack, at the time?’

“‘No,’ Brunton said. ‘Just an unwanted situation. It’s just a very odd event.’”

Former Senior Deputy District Attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez (who wasn’t told the names of the people in question) told Snow, “There’s nothing to prosecute here. People get drunk on dates and take off each other’s pants all the time…” Snow wrote. “The crucial detail in the context of a consensual date with two adults who are drinking, he said, is that when the man who made the advance was denied consent, he backed off. ‘Making a move itself is not a crime.’”

According to Snow, “Brunton told me that it did not occur to him for a long time that Takei might have slipped him something. ‘I thought it was just I was drunk,’ he said. ‘I didn’t even start thinking that until years later when they started talking about date-rape drugs. And, then Cosby and all.’”

Snow’s memory expert said, “Our memories change when we recall them to fit the person’s worldview and mesh with experiences that happened after the event.”

She also noted, “Our memory is not built to remember precise details over long periods of time. We fill in the details.”

Yet two days after The Hollywood Reporter article, Brunton upped his claims, telling The Oregonian/Or- egonLive, “I know unequivocally he spiked my drink.”

Brunton said he immediately told former boyfriend Jay Vanulk what had happened before anyone else, but Vanulk told Snow he didn’t remember hearing about Brunton’s interaction with Takei until he saw it on the news in 2017. Vanulk talked with Brunton’s ex-fiancée, Tracey, who said although she remembered hearing about the episode with Takei, she didn’t remember anything about Takei assaulting Brunton.

Brunton told THR he contacted Takei during the actor’s 1994 book tour and the two met for coffee in Portland, where Brunton hoped to confront him about their 1981 encounter but chickened out. When I wrote my column in November, I found it inconsistent that the former model didn’t mention that get-together to The Oregonian/OregonLive or CNN but told both outlets it was at the book signing that he was afraid to confront Takei. Now Brunton admits they never met for coffee.

Snow interviewed two toxicologists (again, not revealing the names of the men involved) who said if Brunton had been given any date-rape drugs at the time, he wouldn’t have been able to move (nor drive home, as he says he did), he would have suffered the worst hangover in his life, and he would’ve had no memory of what happened with Takei. Most likely, Brunton, who’d already been drinking before he went to Takei’s apartment, stood up too fast.

After Snow shared his findings with him, Brunton “admitted that this made him feel better. He was probably right all those years when he thought he was just drunk. He would still never know for sure, but, Brunton said, referring to Takei, ‘it makes him a little less sinister.’”

But what does that make Brunton? He doesn’t seem to care about the effect this had on Takei’s reputation. (“I don’t want to sound like I’m so vengeful, but, I mean, you do want to get back at someone like that that has done something like that. If it just tarnishes their reputation a little bit, well, that’s what you get for doing what you did.”

Uh, and exactly what was that again? Because you never seem to be able to make up your mind for very long exactly what he did do…)

Snow wrote, “Takei’s run as the ‘moral compass of the Internet,’ as one blogger put it, was over.”

Some sponsors quietly abandoned Takei’s Facebook page. Densho took down from its website a video narrated by the actor. If more people had believed Brunton’s story, the biggest event on East West Players’ calendar — the heavily promoted “Allegiance” — could have been shut down, its star’s reputation so tarnished that even a story about the internment of Japanese Americans might not have been deemed “appropriate” enough to be performed.

Yet seven months later, no one else has stepped forward to accuse George Takei of drugging and/ or making unwanted sexual advances on them.

No wonder in high school, Brunton says he was voted “Most Naïve.” (Yet, unsurprisingly, Snow couldn’t find any evidence of that in the high school yearbook)

Snow wrote: “For decades, he explained, his night with Takei had been a funny tale, ‘a great party story,’ as he put it. ‘I rarely thought of it,’ he said. ‘Just occasionally, if his name popped up,’ or if a Star Trek reference came up with friends. ‘I’d say, “Oh, well, I’ve got a story for you!’” he recalled, laughing. ‘They go, “Really? What?” I’d tell people, and they’d go, “Ew!”’”

Brunton even admitted, as Snow wrote, “The episode itself was ‘not painful,’ Brunton said, chuckling. ‘It didn’t scar me.’”

This hardly seems like the victim of a sex crime. Ask anyone from the #MeToo movement if they talk about their sexual assaults at parties and laugh about them.

Snow’s memory expert noted, “This is one reason why corroboration from people who victims spoke with immediately after an event is so crucial to making sense of old cases. And it’s how someone can think of an old memory as a ‘great party story’ for decades and suddenly become upset about it in the context of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.”

Brunton adds weird details: “[Takei] was 20 years older than me and short. And I wasn’t attracted to Asian men. I was a hot, surfer, California boy type, that he probably could have only gotten had he bought, paid for or found someone just willing to ride on his coattails of fame.”

What, did he feel he had demeaned himself by being put in a sexual situation with an Asian man?

Yet Brunton said, “I felt so privileged to know him [because]he was so nice, and a celebrity. I thought, ‘Well, he could be friends with lots of people, but he chose to be my friend.’”

Scott Brunton comes across as a peculiar, insecure, needy person who wants attention from Takei but to this day, even after publicly accusing him of sexual assault, now says he doesn’t believe Takei is guilty. Why did he not reach out to Takei in private as he’d originally planned, rather than work out his confusion in the press, where it created doubt to Takei’s character and hurt his reputation as a champion of justice, diversity and civil rights and defender of the underdog?

Sounds like Brunton needs a good psychiatrist.

Snow quoted “a personal friend of Takei’s” that “this has been the worst thing to happen to George since the internment camps.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

Scott Brunton, instead of seeking an apology from George Takei, you owe him a very public one.

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\In 1987, as part of NCRR (National Coalition for Redress/Reparations), Guy Aoki was one of 140 who lobbied Congress to pass the redress bill. When the media aired six months of irresponsible stories leading up to the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1991, Aoki decided to form Media Action Network for Asian American (MANAA), the first group solely dedicated to monitoring the mass media and advocating balanced, sensitive, and positive depiction and coverage of Asian Americans. He wrote the “Into the Next Stage” column for The Rafu Shimpo from 1992 to 2017.

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2 Comments

  1. As someone who personally has had a lot of respect for Mr. Takei and believes he is by and large a well-meaning and well-intentioned man, no, Mr. Brunton does not owe him an apology for the affect this has had on Mr. Takei’s career. And shame on you for checking off every block for why victims don’t come forward more often. “Sounds like Brunton needs a good psychiatrist.” JFC, have you ever even HEARD of gaslighting?

    Humor is a coping mechanism. Ask any soldier. There’s a reason gallows humor is a thing. Just because he brushed it off for years doesn’t mean the betrayal he felt because this man he trusted as a friend tried to seduce him didn’t affect him in a deep, unconscious level. If you don’t understand how that works, it sounds like YOU are the one in need of a good psychiatrist.

    What Mr. Takei did that night, what is consistently true, and what is consistent with stories Mr. Takei told on Howard Stern (which he later dismissed as “a bit” in an uncomfortable parallel to “locker room talk”), is use his celebrity and seniority to take advantage of a young gay man in an emotionally vulnerable spot after a hard breakup. It is easy for well-intentioned people to miss it, but that is predatory behavior even if it isn’t criminal, in the same way that Bill Clinton using his position of power to seduce a young and easily influenced intern is predatory behavior, even if the relationship was consensual. This is the very reason we have statutory rape laws: because the power dynamic between adults and children renders children unable to give informed consent. There is a similar power dynamic between older, affluent adults and young adults.

    There are inconsistencies in Mr. Brunton’s story that come with time. There are inconsistencies that come with the discomfort of being grilled by a reporter causing you to second-guess yourself. I challengr you to say you’ve never had trouble gathering your thoughts or never questioned your own judgement under intense scrutiny. The fact that Mr. Brunton was willing to admit he may have been mistaken about the alcohol actually lends credence to the rest of the story.

    As a final note: anybody who thinks he probably just “stood up too fast” has never had a soju experience. If you did, you’d immediately recognize the symptoms of drinking extremely strong, flavorless alcohol that goes down like water and leaves you feeling sober until you try to stand up.

    Shame on you, Mr. Aoki.

  2. I agree with SW_DAD’s comment. I also believe that George Takei may not remember and his puzzlement is genuine, but I don’t attribute that to Brunton’s story not occurring or not being traumatic – I attribute that to what we call RAPE CULTURE. Very similarly to Aziz Ansari, we have “nice guys” who are nice just manipulate someone into sex, but we also have genuinely nice guys who have skewed understandings of power dynamics and consent, and everything in between. A person can have excellent character in many ways, and, operating within their own understanding and framework, not believe they have made a violation of any boundary, and STILL commit sexual assault. This is because of rape culture and the idea that consent is granted unless specifically revoked, which is WRONG. If the entire argument hinges on “oh, Brunton was just passed out drunk and an older man was just hovering over him or lying on him while he was clearly incapacitated and started taking his pants and underwear off, no big deal” – then everyone needs to take a step back and reevaluate, because that IS STILL sexual assault.

    “Ask anyone from the #MeToo movement if they talk about their sexual assaults at parties and laugh about them.” Great idea – why don’t you? Did you? How many? Did you go to Vox’s list of accused sexual assault allegations and read the stories? Ben Affleck and Dustin Hoffman stand out to me as great examples of men whose victims shared their stories with laughter over the years, because they felt that was the only way others were willing to hear them – and that the laughter was a defense mechanism, and all they really wanted to do was cry.

    Hoffman’s victims – and MANY abuse victims – even share similar feelings to what Brunton expressed, feeling conflicted, still feeling fondness for the accused, considering them good in so many ways, but also feeling hurt and confused. It is classic abuse victim mentality, and classically used to dismiss abuse victims. Unless someone denies the complexity of their experience and feelings and tries to cast it in that old easy villain caricature light, it’s not REAL abuse or assault. But wait, if you even slightly change your story, consciously or subconsciously, to match what people think abuse is in order to obtain validity, you’re inconsistent and a liar and just doing this for attention, how dare you, no one will believe you!

    Perhaps Brunton did share details inconsistently. Or, as Brunton immediately claimed in his follow-up with ABC News and OregonLive after Snow’s report came out – various reporters left out or miscommunicated details that he had actually shared consistently, but they reported inconsistently. From my brief stint as a local newspaper journalist, I remember article writing and interviewing, and I can fully believe that. Some reporters find one detail more important than another, transcribe or understand something differently from one another, and make their own choice what to report or not. We are humans, not machines, and “accounting errors” like these are always held against victims with a hundred times more scrutiny than any alleged sexual abuser. If we’re all innocent until proven guilty, that should mean that an accuser is innocent of lying until proven guilty, too. If circumstantial evidence won’t be enough to convict the accused, it shouldn’t be enough to convict the accuser.

    You of course could not have foretold the future, but in light of the recent events with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, the narrative and arguments you make line up too closely those of the examiners that are still echoing painfully in the hearts of sexual assault survivors across the nation.

    Why don’t you check out Ines Hercovich’s TED talk about why women stay silent about sexual assault? Apply it to men as well, because her focus was exclusionary, but the point stands. Brunton’s behavior is exactly consistent with a genuine victim. Takei’s confusion, his genuineness, and the isolated nature of this incident do not preclude the possibility that he inappropriately touched a young man without consent. His dismissal of the “dirty old gay uncle bit” is indeed a disturbing parallel to Trump’s “locker room talk” dismissal, even though he much more responsibly admitted it is inappropriate and apologized.

    Takei’s urge to shut down and drill down hard in his denial rather than be willing to consider, listen or talk to Brunton is misguided. It does, however, make sense with my understanding of the culture of his generation, and the experiences that we in the LGBT community go through of being discredited and oppressed. And that’s not even taking into account the trauma he faced as an Asian American who lived through internment camps in the US. None of this excuses assault, but I empathize with why he is not responding in the ways I, and Brunton, believe would be appropriate, whether he truly remembers Brunton or not.

    As a journalist, however, especially in this time of political and social upheaval, it would behoove you to educate yourself further on the nature of abuse dynamics, gaslighting, predatory behavior, and perhaps just immerse yourself in the accounts of #MeToo victims before you appeal to them as supposedly backing your point as you represent everyone who made them feel afraid to come forward. If you are already aware and immersed in these stories, maybe review them with more of an empathetic attitude and listening ear. I absolutely believe in your good intent in supporting George Takei’s good work, but as a #MeToo survivor who is exhausted by these types of arguments from the men in my life who are unwilling to even check out things like Vox’s “Sexual Assault Allegations List” and their stories, or the Me Too Movement’s “Advocate Resources” web page…I ask you to take the time and put in your due diligence.

    And never, ever, ever, tell an alleged sexual assault victim to apologize. You lost the right to call out the small percentage of false reports when you wrote this abuse-enabling column.

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