Priest criticised over Russell Brand comments

(Photo: YouTube)

A priest who regularly appears on BBC Radio Four's 'Thought for the Day' has come under fire over comments she made about allegations against Russell Brand. 

Serious allegations of sexual assault have been made against Brand, a comedian and actor-turned-Youtuber, following a four-year joint investigation by The Sunday Times, The Times and Channel 4 Dispatches.

The Metropolitan Police told The Times on Monday that it was reviewing a report of an alleged sexual assault in central London in 2003.

Brand has denied the allegations and said that his relationships have always been consensual. 

Canon Angela Tilby has faced strong criticism for comments she made on the allegations facing Brand and the media attention they have received. 

On Sunday she wrote on X, formerly Twitter, "Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph both treat allegations against Russell Brand as a massive lead story, so feeding the celeb culture beast while important news is consigned to near obscurity. Why are we obsessed with such trivia?"

In a follow-up post, she continued: "....and it seems the next most important story after the Brand allegations in The Sunday Times is the return of 'Strictly...'. I don't doubt the courage of those who have spoken about Russell Brand. But I do question the Sunday Times editorial values." 

When questioned on her comments by some X users, she said, "The allegations against RB are appalling and the women who have made them need all support and encouragement. My quarrel is with the news values revealed by putting these allegations on front page, at such length."

Anglican Communion spokesman, Gavin Drake, whose late wife Jill Saward was a campaigner against sexual violence after being raped in 1986, was among those criticising Tilby's comments.

"'Trivia'? Allegations of rape and other sexual assaults against multiple women are 'trivia'? What a disgraceful position," he said. 

Catholic commentator Catherine Pepinster said, "This a story of the culture in which we live and it's mores and is therefore not remotely trivial. Would you have read stories about Savile and considered [them] trivial?"

Canon Tilby has since addressed the backlash against her comments, which are still online.

"I wish to clarify my comments on Russell Brand. I do not regard the allegations about him as trivial. They are extremely serious and of course they should be investigated. Whether they should have been front page news is another matter, one of journalistic judgement. I am sorry to have caused confusion and offence," she said.

Portsmouth Cathedral, where Tilby is an honorary canon, has distanced itself from her comments and welcomed her clarification.

A spokesperson for the cathedral said: "Angela Tilby holds an honorary title at Portsmouth Cathedral, but is not part of our staff team. She writes columns for the Church Times and comments on X/Twitter in a personal capacity. Her views, as her X/Twitter profile makes clear, do not represent the views of the cathedral.

"We commend the bravery of anyone who comes forward to disclose details of potential sexual abuse, and would expect those disclosures to be taken seriously. Any such allegations against anyone – whether a public figure or not – could never be described as 'trivial'. We are pleased to see that Angela has clarified her comment to reflect this."