Colbert and Comedy Central Back New Charlamagne Tha God Show Despite Allegations
The hip-hop radio titan is debuting his half-hour series, executive-produced by Comedy Central’s one-time superstar Stephen Colbert. His accuser is raising money to “get justice.”
It’s a good time to be Charlamagne Tha God. On Friday night the popular hip-hop radio host slash Guy Code alum debuts his own half-hour weekly show, Tha God’s Honest Truth With Lenard ‘Charlamagne’ McKelvey—executive-produced by none other than the Comedy Central deity himself, Stephen Colbert.
The series, a logline promises, “deftly unpacks the most pressing topics permeating politics and culture. Redemptively comedic, refreshingly unfiltered, and unapologetically Black, nothing is off limits.”
“Charlamagne is one of the most culturally significant voices of our time,” MTV Entertainment Group president Chris McCarthy said in a statement. “His thought provoking and uninhibited observations both get under people’s skin and open their minds which is why we are thrilled to be doing this show with him and equally thrilled to welcome back the Dean of Late Night to Comedy Central, Mr. Stephen Colbert.”
Meanwhile Jessica Reid, who claims that McKelvey raped her at a party in 2001 when she was 15, continues to seek justice.
Reid largely avoided cooperating with prosecutors after her alleged assault, but in 2018 she and her mother, Joslyn Sullivan, began publicizing their hopes to reopen the case. Sullivan has taken responsibility for her daughter’s initial reticence; she told The Blast she’d tried to protect Reid by convincing her not to participate but that she now wanted closure to end her daughter’s “suffering and pain.”
As Amy Zimmerman previously reported for The Daily Beast, an incident report from 2001 details the alleged assault. Reid’s friend, who attended the party with her, told deputies that she’d fallen asleep after drinking a beverage that “tasted like soda.” She woke up to a man trying to kiss her, the report states, and later found Reid naked and crying. She said she’d been raped.
Reid’s mother contacted the police, and an examination at the Summerville Medical Center corroborated Reid’s claim that she’d been assaulted, the report states. Reid implicated McKelvey, whom police arrested 13 days after responding to Sullivan’s call.
McKelvey ultimately pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in 2001 and received three months’ probation.
As Zimmerman noted in 2018, McKelvey has denied Reid’s allegations on numerous occasions. His attorney Michael Weinstein also denied his involvement in a statement to TMZ.
In 2018 Berkeley County’s district attorney said the state would not reopen the case and would respect McKelvey’s plea agreement. A user claiming to be Reid has created a GoFundMe, ostensibly to cover her legal fees in the hopes that she can “get justice.” This fall she published her book, No Longer Silenced, on Amazon. She did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on McKelvey’s new program or the support he’s received from Comedy Central and Colbert.
In addition to Reid’s allegations, Zimmerman noted, McKelvey has also been forced, on numerous occasions, to clarify shady anecdotes he’s shared about past sexual encounters. In one sparkling moment, the radio host brought his wife onto his radio show The Breakfast Club to clarify that he had not, in fact, raped her the first time they had sex.
“You need to learn how to tell stories,” she told him. “You shouldn’t have used the word rape, first of all, ’cause the conversation that we were having is about rape culture.”
Fascinating stuff from the guy Comedy Central is pitching as the unorthodox genius who can help us all open our minds. Then again, The Breakfast Club didn’t exactly build its brand on being good for the ladies; the show is known for its sexist and “problematic” banter, and Janet Mock once penned an entire op-ed for Allure calling out the show’s treatment of trans women. Oh, and remember when The Breakfast Club rolled out the red carpet for alleged serial rapist Russell Simmons just last year?
This isn’t the first time a major network has overlooked Charlamagne’s spotty history. His rape allegations resurfaced in 2018 in part because HBO announced an interview series with him to be released that fall. When the radio host’s past comments about having sex with a “not coherent” woman resurfaced, a publicist for HBO told Page Six, “HBO is taking a serious look into the information that just surfaced.”
“The way I communicated that story in that clip was dead-ass wrong,” Charlamagne said at the time, “and I apologize.”
Colbert met the radio host in 2016 when he booked his first Late Show appearance; he’s made seven appearances in total. Perhaps their shared Southern roots played a part as well. Both men hail from South Carolina, and Colbert’s brother taught at Charlamagne’s middle school.
Comedy Central and the powers that be behind Tha God’s Honest Truth might insist, as E.P. Aaron McGruder does in his statement to Deadline, that McKelvey is “keenly aware of the power of his voice and always looking to use it to maximum effect, which requires both talent and courage.” It’s hard not to wonder if anyone’s thought to ask what that “effect” might be.