A man who accused Star Trek actor George Takei of drugging and sexually assaulting him in 1981 has now amended some of his claims in a new investigative article. The allegation arose amid a wave of stories about high-profile Hollywood actors, producers, and directors, which exposed decades of predatory and abusive behavior within the film industry. The most notorious case by far was that of producer Harvey Weinstein, who this week was arrested in New York on rape charges.
The movement may be a vital step in drawing new boundaries against exploitation and abuse in Hollywood, but it's also been a painful year as actors open up about their own traumatic experiences, and figures who were once idolized have faced credible allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct - among them, Kevin Spacey, Luc Besson, and Morgan Freeman. Given that Takei has been a strong proponent of the importance of consent, and is generally a beloved persona in geek circles, many fans were devastated to see his name join the list of those accused of sexual misconduct.
In the wake of this story, Observer launched a fresh investigation into the allegations against Takei, including reaching out to his accuser, Scott Brunton. In the original report, Brunton said that in 1981 he had gone out with Takei and ended up back at his condo, where he had a couple of strong cocktails. He then felt a little dizzy and sat down on a beanbag chair, where he "must have passed out." When he came to, his pants were around his ankles and Takei was pulling at his underwear. In some interviews, Brunton claimed that Takei was also groping him. Takei flatly denied the allegations, saying, "the events he describes back in the 1980s simply did not occur" and that "non-consensual acts are so antithetical to my values and my practices."
Brunton's description of feeling dizzy led to speculation that Takei may have slipped a date rape drug into his drink, and Brunton later went on to make that same claim, saying, "I know unequivocally he spiked my drink." However, Brunton told Observer that he didn't actually believe he'd been drugged at the time, saying, "I thought it was just I was drunk... I didn’t even start thinking that until years later when they started talking about date rape drugs." Moreover, two toxicologists that Observer spoke to both immediately ruled out the possibility that Brunton had been drugged, based on his story, since no date rape drugs available in 1981 would have been able to cause only brief dizziness that wore off within minutes. The most likely explanation, they said, was "postural hypotension, exacerbated by alcohol" - basically, standing up too fast.
Speaking to Observer, Brunton said that in hindsight he wasn't sure if he actually passed out or if he just had a memory brownout because of the alcohol. He also explained that he had never formally come forward with the allegations before because for decades the incident had been "a great party story":
“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!’”
While it may be tempting to use this latest report to write off the allegations against Takei completely and go back to viewing him as a lovable geek culture grandpa, it's important to note that the core elements of Brunton's account haven't changed - only the details. The alleged incident took place 37 years ago and Brunton says that both parties had been drinking, which makes it all the harder to nail down exactly what may have happened. And since it's not unusual for victims of sexual assault to try to minimize or normalize their experiences, even Brunton treating the incident like "a great party story" doesn't mean that lines of consent were not pushed.
That said, the article notes that, in most of the recent cases of Hollywood figures being accused of predatory behavior, the specific allegations fit within a described pattern of behavior, corroborated by many sources. Contrastingly, "Takei was known in Hollywood as a good guy. There had been no whisper cloud, no trail of payoffs." Writer Shane Snow interviewed Takei's friends, former colleagues, and those who knew him at the time of the alleged incident, and was unable to turn up any stories that echoed Brunton's account. For his part, Takei seems to consider the case closed:
As many of you know, this has been a very difficult period for myself and my husband Brad as we have dealt with the impact of these accusations, but we are happy to see that this nightmare is finally drawing to a close. https://t.co/nHCjnebCBO— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) May 25, 2018