Russell Simmons resigns amid sex misconduct allegation
New York — Russell Simmons has stepped away from his companies following a second allegation of sexual misconduct, though the Def Jam founder again denied ever being violent.
Screenwriter Jenny Lumet, who co-wrote “The Mummy” in 2017 and “Rachel Getting Married” in 2008, penned an essay published by The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday in which she recalled a night around 1991 when Simmons took her to his New York apartment and had sex with her, despite her repeated demands that he stop.
“I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating. I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult. I wanted to stay as contained as I could,” wrote Lumet, the daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet.
Simmons said in a statement released after the essay’s publication that Lumet’s memory of the night is “very different” from his, but it’s clear to him “that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real.” He apologized for being “thoughtless and insensitive” in some of his relationships. He said he would resign from his businesses because, “I don’t want to be a distraction.”
Lumet wrote that she never told anyone about that night until last month after allegations lodged against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein unleashed a torrent of stories about sexual misbehavior in multiple fields.
Lumet said she went public after model Keri Claussen Khalighi said Simmons coerced her to perform a sex act and later penetrated her without her consent in his New York apartment in 1991.
Simmons, 60, denied those allegations, saying everything that occurred between himself and Khalighi was completely consensual and with her “full participation.” He suggested that Khalighi’s accusation came from feeling shame.
“I’m deeply saddened and truly shocked to learn of Keri’s assertions as to what happened over the course of that weekend,” Simmons said in the statement. He later wrote that he “never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life” or would “never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone.”
Hollywood figures including Debra Messing and Ron Perlman praised Lumet for coming forward. Messing on Twitter thanks Lumet for “bravely sharing your harrowing experience” and Perlman said: “Every man or woman having trouble understanding the ripples of this abhorrent behavior should read Ms. Lumet’s words.”
Def Jam Recordings was founded in 1984 by Simmons and Rick Rubin, making stars of such hip-hop artists as LL Cool J, Slick Rick, The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy. Its roster currently includes Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Frank Ocean, Alessia Cara, Jeremih, Jeezy, Iggy Azalea, Big Sean, Nas and 2 Chainz.
Simmons’ empire includes the Argyleculture clothing line, Rush Communications, yoga studio Tantris, the energy drink Celsius and the film and television production company Def Pictures, along with several other philanthropic efforts like the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Diamond Empowerment Fund.
He was married to TV personality and designer Kimora Lee Simmons from 1998-2009 and they had two daughters. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
Simmons is the latest figure in the entertainment world to have his career derailed by accusations of misconduct. The accused include comedian Louis C.K., Pixar and Disney Animation chief John Lasseter, actors Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor, writer-director James Toback and TV anchors Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose.
Russell Simmons statement on sexual misconduct allegation
Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons put out the following statement Thursday after screenwriter Jenny Lumet made an allegation of sexual misconduct in a guest essay in The Hollywood Reporter:
I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991. I know Jenny and her family and have seen her several times over the years since the evening she described. While her memory of that evening is very different from mine, it is now clear to me that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real. While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades and I sincerely and humbly apologize.
This is a time of great transition. The voices of the voiceless, those who have been hurt or shamed, deserve and need to be heard. As the corridors of power inevitably make way for a new generation, I don’t want to be a distraction so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded. The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward. I will convert the studio for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing. As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.