For years, actor Terry Crews said he “looked up” to comedian D.L. Hughley as “one of the funniest most talented people I’ve ever seen.”
“I remember when I saw you warming up the crowd at FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR and I thought ‘this man is a genius,’” Crews tweeted Sunday, referencing Hughley’s guest appearance on the popular ’90s sitcom starring Will Smith.
But it appears Crews’s reverent feelings toward Hughley are no more.
On Sunday, the pair dueled publicly on social media after Crews excoriated Hughley for suggesting in an interview last year that the “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star did not do enough to prevent his alleged sexual assault.
“God gave you muscles so you could say no and mean it,” Hughley told VLADTV in August, expressing disbelief that a man as intimidating and large as Crews, a 240-pound former NFL player, had failed to ward off unwanted contact.
In October 2017, as allegations against now-disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were beginning to sweep the entertainment industry, Crews came forward with his own account of sexual harassment, writing in tweets that he had been groped by a “high-level Hollywood executive” at a party the year before. He later identified the man as Adam Venit, a longtime agent who has represented big names including Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy and Emma Stone. Venit has denied the allegations.
Since going public, Crews has become an outspoken supporter of the #MeToo movement, challenging toxic masculinity and putting critics who have mocked his experience in their place.
“Are you implying I ‘wanted’ to be sexually assaulted?” Crews tweeted Sunday morning, including a video of Hughley’s expletive-laden interview.
The video began with Hughley being asked to share his thoughts on “the whole Terry Crews thing.”
“I think it’s hard for me to think that a dude with all those muscles can’t tell an agent to not touch” him, Hughley said after a brief pause, drawing chuckles from the interviewer. Crews has publicly alleged that Venit groped his genitals.
Hughley added, “I think that now everybody is so into this notion that, ‘It happened to me, too,’ ” before again commenting on the actor’s imposing physique.
If he were in Crews’s position, Hughley said he would not have allowed anything to happen.
“Sometimes you just say, ‘ . . . I don’t care what people think of me. You ain’t doing this to me,’ ” he said.
Hughley later noted that he never had a similar experience in Hollywood, joking, “I’m not sexy enough for that.”
“Low-key I feel like I’m inferior,” he said, smiling. “Here’s my problem, I’ve always had to talk women into sex with me, so I imagine it would have to be the same way with a gay dude.”
In tweets, Crews slammed Hughley as “an example of when comedy turns to sarcasm and cynicism.”
“ABUSERS PROTECT ABUSERS but they MOCK SURVIVORS as well,” Crews tweeted. “When you see me, keep it moving.”
50 Cent and Nasheed have defended their comments, but Simmons tweeted an apology to Crews on Sunday, writing, “My bad never ever meant to silence you i gave my best advice which was wrong, thank you for being a leader.” In another tweet, Simmons described Crews as a “hero for all of us.”
Less than 10 minutes after Crews tweeted his pointed question at Hughley, the comedian responded and appeared to stand by the interview, tweeting, “You saw the video!”
Crews swiftly rebutted Hughley’s comments.
“Sir you said I should have pushed him back, or restrained him and I DID ALL THOSE THINGS . . . but you act like I didn’t,” he tweeted. “Were you there?”
“So sir . . . If you truly feel that is a correct way to deal with toxic behavior . . . Should I slap the s--- out of you?” the actor wrote.
Hours after the two sparred, Hughley shared a picture of a quote on his Instagram account that read, “It’s always the people that know you the least, that judge you the most.” The post included the following hashtags: #isaidwhatisaid, #notakebacks, #itiswhatitis.
The fiery exchange captivated social media users, sparking debates about black culture and toxic masculinity, and even giving rise to a hashtag, #SlapHimTerry. Many rallied behind Crews, praising him for once again calling attention to the challenges faced by male sexual assault survivors.
“I appreciate your courage,” tweeted Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter. “You are a compassionate, educating voice for male victims of sexual assault.”
Crews’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” cast mates also voiced their support for him.
“Everyone would be screaming and running, and it would be a horrible scene,” Crews told Esquire in November last year. “And then everyone in that room could make a phone call to every movie studio in the world: ‘Well, you know about Terry,’ and they’d believe them. [Pushing back] is not an option. It just isn’t. I got too much to lose.”
Several people pointed out that despite being mocked for how he initially handled the situation, Venit was suspended and demoted in the aftermath of Crews’s allegations, according to the Hollywood Reporter. After coming forward, Crews also reported the alleged groping to the Los Angeles Police Department, but prosecutors declined to pursue charges against Venit in February last year, Variety reported. A month later, Venit wrote a letter apologizing to Crews, which the actor shared on Twitter.
In September 2018, following the settlement of a lawsuit filed by Crews, Venit retired from his agency, William Morris Endeavor, Deadline reported.
“They know not what they joke — your action forced change @ WME,” another person wrote, referencing Venit’s former agency.
Others, however, argued that the exchange between Crews and Hughley revealed what one Twitter user described as “an unspoken source of ‘black on black’ violence.”
Crews’s widely debated response to Hughley prompted Nigerian-American rapper Chika to launch the #SlapHimTerry hashtag on Sunday, which she billed as “as an extension of the #MeToo movement — this branch is in support of men holding other men accountable.”
“Despite the name, this is a nonviolent group,” Chika wrote. “Unless you’re DL Hughley.”