The Tiffany Haddish and Aries Spears allegations are bringing out the worst in the internet

We don’t need to look up any videos to know that it’s wrong.

US actress Tiffany Haddish attends the world premiere of "Easter Sunday" on August 2, 2022 at the TC...

This story recounts instances of sexual abuse.

Tiffany Haddish has responded to the recent allegations of child sexual abuse made against her and fellow comic Aries Spears. Haddish posted on Instagram, claiming that she was apologetic about “having agreed to act in” a sketch that is at the heart of a lawsuit that a Jane and John Doe, two siblings who were allegedly roped into disturbingly inappropriate situations on-camera, have levied against the comedians.

“I know people have a bunch of questions,” she wrote. “I get it. I’m right there with you. Unfortunately, because there is an ongoing legal case, there’s very little that I can say right now. but, clearly, while this sketch was intended to be comedic, it wasn’t funny at all — and I deeply regret having agreed to act in it. I really look forward to being able to share a lot more about this situation as soon as I can.”

Haddish’s apology, though, evades and misconstrues the claims that she specifically was the one to recruit the two children, ages 14 and 7 at the time of two separate video shoots, for sketches whose content she may have also helped conceive.

As detailed in an exposé in The Daily Beast, Haddish became close with the children’s mother years ago and referred to her children as “niece” and “nephew.” In 2013, Haddish allegedly asked 14-year-old Jane to take part in what she told Jane and her mother was a commercial, but was instead a comedy video in which Jane was instructed to mimic fellatio on a subway sandwich.

A year later, according to the report, Haddish recruited 7-year-old John for a video, telling his family that he would be shooting a “sizzle reel for Nickelodeon.” Instead, after Jane and John were taken to Spears’s home, John was allegedly taken into a room alone to shoot a sketch video entitled “The Mind of a Pedophile.” The video, which The Daily Beast reviewed, involves a sequence of disturbing content in which Spears plays a pedophile preying on John, who is only in his underwear.

“I had to kick and scream and cry, and Tiffany came and told me to let him touch me,” John wrote in the lawsuit. “When I kept crying, Tiffany got mad at me, told me to get dressed, and took me home. I remember her yelling at me in the car, telling me that I would never get on tv acting like that.”

After John called his mother crying, Haddish and Spears were dismissive to her about the situation, and upon the mother’s repeated requests to see the footage, Spears claimed it had been deleted. The video, though, was uploaded to Funny or Die, before being removed from the site in 2018.

“Funny Or Die found this video absolutely disgusting and would never produce such content,” a representative told The Daily Beast in a statement. “We were not involved with the conceptualization, development, funding, or production of this video. It was uploaded to the site as user-generated content and was removed in 2018 immediately after becoming aware of its existence.”

In the lawsuit, Jane and John, respectively 22 and 15 now, claim that their experiences with Haddish and Spears traumatized them and have had dramatic and lasting impacts on their lives. Their mother says that she almost attempted suicide at one point. The lawsuit notes that the mother reached a settlement in 2019, but that it “does not bind Haddish — who the complaint alleges ‘insinuated she wanted no part of the Spears settlement agreement via text’ — or the siblings, who had no guardian ad litem present to represent their interests as minors.”

The entire story, though, has also typified the worst impulses of the internet. While the lawsuit alleges the deep harm that Haddish and Spears inflicted upon the plaintiffs, the high-profile nature of the accusations has only led countless users online to seek out and circulate the video. Some have claimed to watch it in order to determine the truth of the situation for themselves.

Most are likely driven by the sensationalism of a disturbing story and have gone looking for the video out of curiosity, only driving engagement and views around something that sounds as if it would qualify as child pornography. Even as we recognize the gross nature of the situation on its face, it feels nearly impossible for us all, in the endless churn of trending content, to form a take, or simply read others’ takes, while letting something that should be left untouched stay untouched.

The situation will likely be dragged out as Haddish, despite the evidence speaking for itself, has fired back. “[The] plaintiff’s mother ... has been trying to assert these bogus claims against Ms. Haddish for several years,” her attorney Andrew Brettler said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times. “Every attorney who has initially taken on her case — and there were several — ultimately dropped the matter once it became clear that the claims were meritless and Ms. Haddish would not be shaken down.”

After Haddish addressed the situation on Instagram, Jane responded back in a statement. “Tiffany did not acknowledge the fact that she intentionally lied to our mother by telling her that my brother would be filming a Nickelodeon sizzle reel, when in fact her real intention was to isolate him and molest him with Aries Spears,” Jane said. “We are not going to stop until we receive justice.”