Of all these unwanted advances, the most noteworthy—the one that would, decades later, put him in the public spotlight—involved a famous actor: Star Trek star George Takei.
Or so Brunton said last November, when he claimed that in 1981, he and Takei, then 44, had gone out together and ended up in the actor’s condo late at night. There, he drank cocktails Takei had made, became woozy and found himself on a bean bag chair. Then, according to Brunton, the actor pulled down Brunton’s pants while the model was barely conscious. Coming to and startled, 24-year-old Brunton bolted.
Nearly four decades later, Brunton, who said he’d told the story to friends “maybe 20 times,” typed the words, “George Takei sexually assaulted me,” in an email to The Hollywood Reporter, accusing the actor of groping him.
The reckoning was immediate. Within hours, the THR story went absolutely viral. Twitter similarly exploded with users accusing Takei of drugging Brunton and labeling Takei as a rapist. Eighty-year-old Takei denied Brunton’s accusation, saying he couldn’t even remember the guy.
But disgusted fans abandoned Takei, who had paired his Lieutenant Sulu fame with hourly tweets on human rights and politics to become an iconic critic, a foil to Donald Trump and promoter of LGBTQ rights with over 10 million followers. His publishing partners dumped him. Saturday Night Live dropped his name in a skit about sex offenses. Donald Trump Jr. gleefully tweet-accused Takei of hypocrisy.
Donald Trump Jr.
Wrong again Georgie... I guess you have a bit more free time to read #fakenews now that it’s a bit tougher to ply kids with alcohol to assault them??? You know with all the added scrutiny. https://twitter.com/georgetakei/stat...56104763838465
7:54 PM - Dec 9, 2017
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However, unlike like Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrity sex offenders, Takei was known in Hollywood as a good guy. There had been no whisper cloud, no trail of payoffs or suppressed claims of higher-ups shrugging off allegations to protect their businesses.
Was this an uncharacteristic lapse? Or was it the first hint of a hidden pattern, a dark side Takei kept from public view for decades?
I had my own reasons for wanting the answer.
Though I never spoke with him, Takei was one of several people I profiled while writing a pop-science book about human collaboration. In one chapter, I examined Takei’s fight against homophobia and Asian American discrimination, including through his hit Broadway musical Allegiance, based on the story of his own childhood incarceration in WWII internment camps.
The THR article broke as my publisher, Penguin, was reading the final draft of my manuscript. The question: What now?
If Takei was indeed a creep, I was inclined to remove him from my book. Though I’d chronicled plenty of morally compromised people—from Che Guevara to Andrew Jackson—these were different times. But if Takei’s name happened to be unfairly tarnished, as he claimed, should I add to his demise by deleting his story?
My publisher and I waited for the inevitable flood of #MeToo accusations against Takei, as they had with other accused sexual predators. But none came.
And then, as I obsessively read each new story, I noticed eyebrow-raising conflicting details in Brunton’s interviews.
Most prominently, Brunton didn’t appear to mention being drugged until two days after the THR story, following Takei’s public denial. And then, in a CNN interview, he confusingly didn’t recount any groping.
Social media and press had convicted Takei, but in the absence of more accusers, questions hung in the air: What exactly happened that night? And who was Takei, really?
So I resolved to find out more about what happened 36 years ago between two men late at night in an apartment, when no one else was around.
What I discovered after months of investigation—and after speaking at length with Brunton, people close to Takei, medical toxicologists and legal experts in sex offenses—suggests that this story needs to be recast significantly.
Brunton, a sympathetic and well-intentioned man, would go on to walk back key details and let slip that, in his effort to be listened to, he’d fabricated some things. This and other evidence would indicate a hard-to-swallow conclusion: We—both public and press—got the George Takei assault story wrong.