A video of the rapper previously known as Puff Daddy attacking his ex-girlfriend forced the star to own the actions he’d previously denied. But by playing the ‘God card’ Giles Gough says his apology lacked conviction


Source: Alamy

In November 2023, Sean Combs (previously known as ‘Puff Daddy’, ‘Puffy’ or ‘P. Diddy’) was sued by Cassandra Ventura, also known as Cassie, after she accused him of rape and severe physical and emotional abuse.

However, the day after the lawsuit was filed, Combs and Cassie reached a settlement. At the time, Cassie said that she had “decided to resolve this matter amicably on terms that I have some level of control”.

Meanwhile, Combs’ attorney told the press that his client “vehemently denies” the allegations, adding: “a decision to settle a lawsuit, especially in 2023, is in no way an admission of wrongdoing”.

Our God is not a get out of jail free card

The world’s attention moved on but, later, three more women came forward with similar claims of sexual abuse and assault. Combs was unequivocal in his denial, posting on Instagram that: “sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday.”

”Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth”, he added.

Caught on film

Then something happened that made the issue impossible to ignore. CCTV footage of Combs attacking Cassie in the corridor of a hotel in 2016 was leaked to CNN.

The clips show Cassie trying to leave the hotel where she and Combs were staying. She makes it to the elevator when Combs comes out of his room, wearing only a towel and socks. The image would be comical if it wasn’t immediately followed by the sight of Combs grabbing Cassie by the back of the head and violently yanking her to the floor. He kicks her, attempts to drag her back to the hotel room and then throws several glass vases at her while she is lying on the ground.

Two days later, Combs released a video on Instagram where he described his actions as “inexcusable”. He went on to say: “I was disgusted then when I did it and I’m disgusted now”.

On the one hand, yet another powerful celebrity revealed as an abuser will not be surprising to many. But for a certain generation of hip hop fans, it leaves a bitter taste of disappointment.

In the mid-90s, the feud between two of the greatest rappers of all time, Christopher ‘the Notorious B.I.G’ Wallace and Tupac Shakur was reaching its peak. Both were regularly flanked by the CEOs of their respective labels: Combs (known then as Puff Daddy) and Marion ‘Suge’ Knight, who ran Death Row Records.

Compared to Knight, who is currently serving 28 years in prison, Puffy was practically the Pope. At the 1995 Source Awards, he took to the stage and said: “I’m a positive Black man, and I make music to bring us together”. So, while rumours occasionally circulated about Combs bad behaviour, nothing stuck. 

Calling on God

In his Instagram confession, Combs also said: “I went and I sought out professional help. I got into going to therapy, going to rehab. I had to ask God for his mercy and grace. I’m so sorry. But I’m committed to being a better man each and every day”.

The glaring problem with this statement is that, if Combs did indeed seek out therapy back in 2016, if he did indeed seek God’s mercy and grace, at no point did it appear to result in a change of actions, or any seeming signs of repentance. Most tellingly, it did not stop him from calling Cassie and her fellow accusers liars “in search of a quick payday”. 

The Bible teaches us that we should seek forgiveness from others before seeking forgiveness from God

This is not in any way new. Combs joins a long list of powerful men who suddenly turn to God when they find themselves in the media spotlight. Russell Brand recently got baptised while still denying the sexual allegations against him.

Marilyn Manson attended Kanye West’s Sunday service while still denying the violent sexual accusations made against him. These attempts to redeem a public image while trying to dodge the consequences of their actions should offend anyone with a sincere faith.

Our God is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. The Bible teaches us that we should, where possible, seek forgiveness from others before seeking forgiveness from God (Matthew 5:23-24). 

So, until such time as Combs is willing to own his mistakes, I’m not that interested in hearing about his relationship with God. I am not saying that bad people cannot talk about Jesus (of course they can). But perhaps they shouldn’t be listened to if they are using it as a means to  redeem their image.