Piers Morgan has offered Cuba Gooding Jr a platform from which to speak “uncensored” for the first time since pleading guilty to “forcibly touching a woman”.
Content note: this article contains references to sexual misconduct that readers may find upsetting.
In 2017, Cuba Gooding Jr sparked outrage on social media after he lifted Sarah Paulson’s skirt onstage during a panel discussion for American Horror Story – a move which the actor says was misinterpreted by the media as “sexual misconduct”.
Just two years later, Gooding was charged with groping or forcibly kissing three women. One of many prominent men whose inappropriate behaviour was exposed by the #MeToo movement, the accusations did not stop there; indeed, a score of similar stories emerged after his arrest.
As per The New York Times, prosecutors sought permission from the court to present trial testimony from 19 women, all of whose accounts – while not forming part of the criminal case – seemingly helped to show that Gooding’s behaviour was part of a pattern.
While a judge initially agreed to permit two of the women to testify, he ultimately reversed that decision. And, come April 2022, prosecutors said that they had reached an agreement that would let Gooding plead to a single harassment charge as long as he was a) not arrested again and b) continued the alcohol and behaviour modification treatment that he had begun the year of his arrest.
Gooding was sentenced in Manhattan’s supreme court to time served. “I would just like to say that we fully credit and believe all of the survivors in this case and thank all of the women and other witnesses who cooperated with our office during the pendency of our investigation,” said Manhattan assistant district attorney Coleen Balbert in a statement in April, when the plea agreement was announced.
Still, though, the three women whose accounts provided the basis for the charges against him expressed disappointment over the outcome of the case, with one even suggesting that the actor had received “special treatment” because of his celebrity status.
As Hollywood lawyer Gloria Allred, who represented one of Gooding’s accusers, told the press gathered outside the courthouse: “The decision of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg to allow Mr Gooding Jr to walk away with a deal, which allows him to avoid trial and erases any criminal record, is an insult to many of the accusers.”
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One can only imagine what was going through Piers Morgan’s mind, then, when he offered Gooding a platform to share his “truth” about the scandals that have plagued him in the last few years.
“I know in my truth, I didn’t mean to disrespect anyone,” Gooding says at one point during his appearance on TalkTV’s Piers Morgan Uncensored.
“Let’s take the word ‘my’ out. There is video footage of the interactions with these women that show the truth of what happened… it is not my truth, it’s the truth.”
The interview plays out much as you might expect; Gooding sets the scene for viewers, insisting that the breakdown of his marriage and the death of his father had brought him to “one of those moments in my life where I was trying to numb the pain”.
Then, moments after claiming that he doesn’t want “to shame anybody or to, you know, take [on] any of these women who have made their statements”, Gooding goes on to offer up an alternative series of events to those shared by one of his accusers.
Gooding says that he didn’t fondle the woman’s breast, as she alleged, but that “I believe I gave her a kiss on the hand”. He claims that she became “upset” because his girlfriend “stopped her” from joining their group at the club. And he insists that “this is all on tape, which is the funniest thing”.
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“When I landed in LA, my lawyer calls me and says, ‘You got to come back. Some woman said that you touched her breast.’ I said, ‘When and where?’” Gooding recalls.
“The DA’s office went to the people who work with the Tao Group and they said, ‘We want all the footage of any time Cuba has ever been in your nightclubs.’ They literally combed everything to see if they could find any other instances of impropriety.
“So, they found another clip where I had gestured towards a waitress as I was leaving, touched her back, went to give her a high five. She said, ‘Don’t pinch my butt.’ That was the second indictment. And then the third one, at the end of an evening where the waitress who gives me my bill… gave her a big tip. So she comes back, you see her, she kisses me on the cheek. So I turned in [and] I gave her a kiss on the lips.”
Gooding adds: “Now fast forward to the pandemic, where all court activity stops for over a year and a half, and we all just reflected on where we had been. The DA had continued to ask for women to come forward with any interactions like a siren call… 30 women [came forward]. One of them was in St. Louis, and I think I was [only ever] there for two hours.”
Why, then, did Gooding plead guilty? “My lawyers said, ‘Listen, we could go to trial and we can show the video footage of all three instances. They can show you partying and singing and your karaoke. And they can, you know, go through this stuff or we can take this deal for you, because you didn’t kiss the girl’. I said 100%.”
The actor stresses that taking the plea deal was absolutely preferable to having the video footage shared in court, adding: “The guilty charge was for a violation of forcible kissing, and, after six months of therapy, the judge re-pleaded it down to a violation… it was harassment, correct. So here we are. Here we are.”
When asked about the more serious allegation he is facing – with the aforementioned Allred representing an alleged rape victim and an ongoing million-dollar lawsuit – Gooding replied: “You know, like I said to you, all of these women came they made their statements – everybody has their right to speak.”
Gooding certainly makes good on his right to speak. Throughout the course of his interview with Morgan, he addresses other allegations of inappropriate behaviour, including thrusting his pelvis and licking a woman’s face. And, somehow, he manages to turn his reply into a story about his own stay in an abuse shelter as a young teenager.
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Naturally, the issue of “cancel culture” is brought up – as is the media’s role in presenting Gooding as an “ogre” to the general public. “Your words are not your words,” he tells Morgan at one point. “They are someone else’s and then that becomes the headline, whether it’s true or not, that’s what people see and that’s what people believe.”
Somewhat ironically, however, the actor acknowledges that his own career hasn’t exactly been hampered by the allegations brought against him.
“You have to allow every experience in your life,” he says. “It’s almost like I can’t take the positive, the Oscars and the fame and ignore the negative. It’s all-encompassing – of where I am today and who I am today.”
While Gooding readily confesses that he is a “moron”, he added that his behaviour was not solely focused towards women at that time in his life. “I was carefree in front of groups and crowds of people,” he says. “If you see all that footage of me kissing the waitress, I also kiss male bartenders, I was high-fiving people… so yes, if that is appropriate, [then] yeah.”
It is, essentially, an interview that has been designed to follow the curve of a very definite redemption arc; Gooding is presented as a complex and troubled individual – one deserving of context and understanding. He needs to have his side of the story shared with the world.
The 19 women who brought forward accounts of inappropriate behaviour against Gooding have not been so lucky. Instead, they have been reduced to footnotes: their stories remain unspoken.
And what of the three women who were able to bring their allegations to court? Who fought hard and won a guilty verdict? Well, they have now had their testimonies picked apart, dismantled and dismissed by the very same man they accused of harassment – all because, in this supposed cancel culture era, he has been given a televised platform upon which to do so.
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As Jayne Butler, CEO for Rape Crisis says: “To give someone who has pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge a platform to minimise or excuse their behaviour is deeply inappropriate.
“We know that media coverage such as this forms part of a victim-blaming culture that prevents many victims and survivors from receiving the support and justice they need, want and deserve.
“The narrative thatwomen lie about rape is false. False allegations of rape are extremely rare and we know that the converse is true – most people who experience rape and sexual assault don’t report to the police.”
Butler finishes: “We must place responsibility for harassment, sexual violence and abuse firmly where it belongs – with the perpetrator –and stop allowing powerful men to dictate the narrative.”
If you would like more information or support, visit Rape Crisis UK – or, alternatively, call 0808 802 9999 (usual opening times are noon – 2.30pm and 7-9.30pm any day of the year and also between 3-5.30pm on weekdays).
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