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The Television Critics Association summer press tour definitively entered the “fake news” era — in which celebrities and other powerful figures can simply dismiss things that are on the public record in order to provide a narrative that is more beneficial to themselves — on Friday, July 27.
Musician Bobby Brown, behind such hits as “My Prerogative” and “Every Little Step,” as well as countless others with the group New Edition, is also incredibly well known for being the husband of Whitney Houston from 1992 to 2007. In 2003, police responded to a 911 call to the couple’s house. Houston, who had a bruised cheek and a cut lip, said Brown had hit her. Brown was eventually charged with misdemeanor battery, but the charges were later dropped and he and Houston left the courthouse together.
Most of what followed was even darker and sadder, as the Brown-Houston marriage crumbled. Houston died in 2012, and the couple’s daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, died in 2015 at the age of 22. This has left only Brown to tell his side of this particular story.
To be clear: Everything about this, from the 911 call to the police visit to the court case, is a matter of public record. What’s more, Brown admitted to having hit Houston on at least one occasion in 2016. And beyond that, there are countless rumors, whispers, and allegations of what “really” happened in the Houston-Brown marriage, but the point stands: What happened in 2003 happened in some regard, and even Brown seemed to agree with that at one point.
But not anymore, it would seem. Brown appeared at the TCA press tour in support of an upcoming BET biopic about him, which has his stamp of approval and, thus, would seem likely to downplay abuse allegations. (The film wasn’t made available to me in advance of the press tour.) And when pressed by a reporter on whether he had, indeed, hit Houston, he said none of it had ever happened and that there was no 911 call.
When a second reporter read from an ABC News article that directly detailed the situation, Brown insisted, “The public record is wrong.” From there, a BET exec shut down the session, and a planned five-minute press scrum was quickly canceled as well, as everybody associated with the production hustled offstage.
(Adding a grim twist to the panel is that it occurred at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, the hotel where Houston died in 2012.)
It’s not uncommon for celebrities accused of horrible things to try to downplay them when doing press for future projects, but it’s rare for them to pretend those things didn’t happen entirely. But here in 2018, that appears to be an increasingly popular PR strategy for all sorts of people, though we’ll see if this buoys Brown as successfully as it has others who cry “fake news” at every opportunity.