Emmy Award-Winning Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph has been trending in the media and online after coming forward to shed light on being a victim of sexual assault 25 years ago. Ralph was a guest on Angela Ye’s Way Up with Angela Ye Podcast promoting her newest book DIVA 2.0: 12 Lessons From Me For You. Later in the interview, Ralph courageously shared her #metoomoment, and spoke on experiences of sexual harassment, and sexual assault by a famous television judge that was on the same network with her during the 90s. She became emotional as she recalled the incident, saying:
“This was a famous TV judge…I’m at a very public place. I was suited. I was handling my business for the television show I was on at that time. We were on the same network. This man walked in, grabbed me by the back of my neck, turned me around and rammed his nasty a** tongue down my throat. And everybody at the network saw it.”
Ralph also shared that the then-mayor of New Orleans Marc Morial wanted to take action against her assailant, but the network’s executives urged her not to report the crime.
“Somebody at the network tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘please don’t.’ Do you know that they did not want any bad press around their show and did not care what had just happened to me.”
Ralph made it clear that she was not talking about Judge Greg Mathis, of the syndicated “Judge Mathis” court TV series.
“I love him. He’s a great man,” Ralph said about Mathis. “Not him at all. He’s a great man. This was another one.”
Ralph didn’t clear any other names or provide additional details about who the assailant was. After the interview aired, the comment section lit up with public speculation that the abuser was former nationally syndicated television Judge and current Memphis, TN Mayoral Candidate Joseph “Judge Joe” Brown. It wasn’t long before Bloggers and YouTubers began to report on the trending topic, with some even posting salacious headlines like: “Judge Joe Brown Accused of Rape By Sheryl Lee Ralph?” While the headlines were great at grabbing attention and trending in the algorithm, it appears to aid in spreading what Judge Joe Brown calls a false narrative and defamation of character.
On Friday, March 24, Judge Joe Brown addressed the rumors and allegations on his self-titled Podcast, produced by Valerie Denise Jones. He denied the allegations made by the public on social media platforms, and threatened to take legal action towards platforms who post false and misleading narratives that can tarnish one’s personal and professional reputation. Judge Brown had this and more to say:
“What’s insulting is, why do you assume that a black man is the culprit instead of a white one?” asked Judge Brown
Take a listen to the exclusive interview posted on Valerie Denise Jones YouTube Chanel.
My opinion of the situation at hand….
I support any victim who chooses to come forward to speak their truth, no matter how long ago the situation occurred. Who are we to place a time limit on when someone expresses themselves as a form of liberation, advocacy efforts, or even personal healing? Sheryl Lee Ralph was courageous for coming forward, and she shouldn’t be obligated to release the name of the alleged assailant. I can understand why Judge Joe Brown feels the need to publicly clear his name given that the story has become viral, and there is a lot of public speculation and mention of him being the sexual abuser. The accusation is very damaging, and while Ralph never accused nor alluded to Judge Brown in her interview, it doesn’t negate the fact that Judge Brown’s reputation is being smeared online at the height of his political campaign for Mayor of Memphis, TN.
Weigh in with your thoughts. Do you think Sheryl Lee Ralph should publicly clear Judge Brown’s name if she wasn’t alluding to him being the assaulter? Should media outlets be sued for posting salacious defamatory headlines?
If you have been a victim of sexual abuse and need an outlet, contact the National Sexual Abuse Hotline at (800) 656-4673.