Tiffany Haddish and fellow comic Aries Spiers have been accused of coercing two young children, ages 7 and 14, to perform inappropriate and sexually charged on-camera acts in two paid videos beginning in 2013.
In a lawsuit filed Monday and first reported Thursday by TMZ and obtained by TheWrap, the older child alleges two separate incidents in which she and her brother were encouraged to perform sexually suggestive acts on-camera. The suit was filed by Jane Doe, now 22, and on behalf of her younger brother John Doe, now 14.
A lawyer for Haddish told TheWrap that the children’s mother has been trying for years to extort money from the comedian, calling the claims “bogus” and a “shakedown.”
“Plaintiff’s mother … has been trying to assert these bogus claims against Ms. Haddish for several years,” the attorney said. ”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. Now, [she] has her adult daughter representing herself in this lawsuit. The two of them will together face the consequences of pursuing this frivolous action.” (Though the attorney identified the mother by name, TheWrap has removed it to protect the identity of her still-underage son.)
Spears’ attorney, Debra Opri, had a similar statement Thursday: “He isn’t going to fall for any shakedown.”
According to the Daily Beast, Haddish and the children’s mother became close friends via the comedy circuit, with her kids calling the emerging star “Auntie Tiff,” whom they regularly heard from on birthdays and holidays. Jane was 14 years old when in 2013, Haddish had her over to shoot a video that Spears was on hand to produce.
At one point, the suit says, Haddish and Spears had Jane watch a recording of a group of young women eating a subway sandwich in a sexually suggestive manner. The lawsuit says Spears told Jane, who was “nervous and disgusted,” to “mimic” the video; at one point Haddish stepped in and began to demonstrate “how to give fellatio.” Jane, who was paid $100 for the shoot, did not tell her mother at the time about the incident.
One year later, the lawsuit says, Haddish approached the children’s mother about hiring her son, then 7, for a video she said would be a sizzle reel for Nickelodeon. Instead, the boy was filmed in a video titled “Through a Pedophile’s Eyes” that was intended for the user-generated section of “Funny or Die!” according to the suit. (Funny or Die! immediately removed the video at the time of its posting in 2018 and has since condemned its contents.)
The lawsuit claims both siblings were present for the shoot at Spears’ home. They were separated, the brother going upstairs to shoot most of the time with Spears while Jane was told to remain on the couch downstairs.
The Daily Beast, which reports that it reviewed the video, says Haddish plays the boy’s guardian who leaves him with Spears — the pedophile. The boy, mostly in his underwear, is leered at, objectified and given a shoulder massage after baby oil is poured onto his back.
The lawsuit claims that the boy came downstairs “red in the face, crying his eyes out, just bawling out in tears. And I’m immediately scared, because I don’t know what happened to him.” Their mother asked Haddish what happened, and was told “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t think acting is for him,’ … And I’m like … What the F you mean, acting isn’t for him? My son is crying. Like, what is going on?”
Eight causes are listed in the civil lawsuit, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, sexual battery, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse of a minor. It seeks general and special damages and statutory damages.
Spears was recently in the news, when Lizzo fans clapped back at his body-shaming of the pop star.