If you ask anyone who watched Monday night’s Emmy Awards, most people think Anthony Anderson did a great job hosting the ceremony. Fresh off of celebrity endorsements from the likes of Colin Jost, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, who were in agreement that he did well, it wasn’t entirely out of left field that when TMZ caught him outside Peacock Theatre, he went on record saying he’s got his eye on the Oscars hosting gig next.
There’s just one thing that might be standing in the way, though, and it’s the decades-old sexual assault allegations that have been following him around. I say “might” because these allegations have never seemed to generate enough attention to put a dent in his reputation to stop him from taking centre stage at some of Hollywood’s biggest and most-watched award shows. So whether the fact that these allegations exist will be enough to bar him from the opportunity to host the Oscars is up in the air. But it’s a wonder why they haven’t garnered as much attention, considering there were police reports, witnesses, arrests and bail payments involved.
Twenty years ago, a woman reported to Memphis police that she had been assaulted by Anthony and Wayne Witherspoon, an assistant director, while filming the movie Hustle & Flow. She alleged that she had been brought over to a trailer, physically restrained and had photos taken of her genitals without her consent. A witness told police that they came and unlocked the door of the trailer when they heard screams, and the woman fled the trailer without her clothes.
This resulted in Anthony facing criminal charges, including aggravated rape. He posted $20,000 bail and went on to deny the allegations. At a preliminary court hearing, the woman testified, alleging Anthony had non-consensual sex with her twice prior to the incident in the trailer. Despite the charges, the bail and the hearing, a judge dismissed the case, saying there was no probable cause.
That same year, another woman came forward, seeking nearly $1-million in damages. She said she had been invited to his dressing room on the set of All About the Andersons, where he made provocative comments before sexually assaulting her. The outcome of all of this has remained under wraps.
And as recently as 2018, which would’ve been at the height of Black-ish, a third woman came forward. She said after completing a catering job for him at an event, the pair met up to discuss more opportunities, and it was then that he allegedly assaulted her. It took a few months for her to bring her complaint to the police, but in the midst of the #MeToo movement, decided to proceed. The LAPD said that her refusal to be interviewed by investigators ultimately led to the dismissal of the case.
Despite these allegations, old and new, there seems to be no real impact on Anthony’s career. Certainly not to the extent we’ve seen against people like Harvey Weinstein, Diddy, or Danny Masterson. Sure, all of these cases vary in certain aspects, but at their core, these are all powerful men who been accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike the others, though, Anthony seems to be at a career high, despite the complaints – and I would attribute that, at least in part, to a masterful PR team that understands how to rebrand a celebrity.
In recent years, Anthony’s really found his groove as a host, not just hosting award shows, but game shows, too. And the thing about game show hosting is that you have to have a certain charisma, a certain charm, to really do the job well. When you think of game show hosts, you think of people like Alex Trebek, Pat Sajak, maybe even someone like Steve Harvey, all of them masters of game show hosting. Quick on their feet, not involved in scandals, a bit older, overall, they’re kind of like TV dads – not anyone you’d associate with sexual misconduct allegations at all (though Pat Sajak always seems to be tiffing with Wheel of Fortune fans).
Late last year, Anthony took over for Jamie Foxx as the host of We Are Family. And it was that show that brought his mother, Doris, into the fold. We also saw Doris at this year’s Emmy Awards, where it was essentially her job to ensure the show ran to time, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, it was all thanks to Doris that the show ended exactly when it was supposed to.
A few weeks ago, PEOPLE reported that Doris would be joining Anthony on stage. Media reports surrounding the announcement suggested that the show’s producers were looking for “smart” ways to incorporate her into the show, but I don’t think only producers are at play here. I think it’s his PR team that knows exactly the gigs he should be working toward landing so that he can keep the allegations at bay and successfully win the role as host of the Oscars.
I’ve written before about how quickly Black men like Jonathan Majors begin surrounding themselves with Black women when it’s time to shift their reputation to the public. But in Anthony’s case, it’s not just Black women serving as some sort of buffer for him, it’s women in general.
There was a key moment at this year’s Emmy Awards when he gracefully guided Christina Applegate out on stage, the pair earning a thunderous round of applause, culminating in a standing ovation. He walked her out like he was some saviour, but more importantly, as if she was some sort of shield for him. To me, that’s the exact physical representation of how women like Christina and Doris are, perhaps inadvertently, helping protect him – and men like him – from having to face sexual assault allegations.
His PR team has truly done an amazing job of slowly rebranding him to the public. They’ve painted him to be a mama’s boy - a wholesome, family-oriented game show host, a courteous gentleman with enough charisma and charm to command an entire room of celebrities. The person they’ve painted him to be is the exact antithesis of the men we imagine to be predators.
And that right there is what makes this all very dangerous. Because we have to dig really deep, way below the surface of all of his accolades and hosting gigs and his ability to make people laugh, in order to see the real threat men like this pose to women in our society. But there are people who can and do dig deep enough. People who know that in society, and particularly in Hollywood, predators often lie in plain sight.