Russell Simmons recently revealed that he is stepping down from his companies in the wake of two accusations of sexual misconduct.
On Nov. 19, The Los Angeles Times reported that Keri Claussen Khalighi, a model who was 17 at the time, had accused Mr. Simmons of coercing her into performing oral sex on him.
“Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation,” Mr. Simmons, 60, said in a statement denying that allegation.
“Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being.”
His resignation, however, followed a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday (Nov 30) by Jenny Lumet, a screenwriter best known for “The Mummy” and “Rachel Getting Married.”
In her story, addressed to Mr. Simmons, Lumet, who was 24 at the time, said Simmons offered her a ride home from a restaurant, but when she got in the car the doors locked and Simmons and told the driver to go to his apartment instead of her home address.
She felt threatened, she said, and her focus turned to keeping Simmons calm, but she never told him that she would go home with him or wished to have sex with him.
“I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating,” she said.
“I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult. I wanted to stay as contained as I could.”
She said he did not “punch me, drag me or verbally threaten me” when they got to his building, but “used your size to maneuver me, quickly, into the elevator.”
In his apartment, he moved her into a bedroom and did not stop when she said “Wait,” according to Lumet.
“At that point, I simply did what I was told,” she said.
“There was penetration. At one point you were only semi-erect and appeared frustrated… You told me to turn over on my stomach. You said something about a part of my body. You did not ejaculate inside me.”
On Thursday (Nov 30), Simmons, who co-founded the music label Def Jam Recordings in 1984, eventually spinning it into a larger entertainment and production empire, said in a statement that he doesn’t want “to be a distraction.”
“I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991,” Simmons.
“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 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.”
Simmons is regarded as one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the hip-hop world. He also founded the fashion lines Phat Farm and Tantris, and co-produced films and television shows including The Nutty Professor and Def Comedy Jam.
HBO said it had removed Simmons’ name and involvement in its upcoming six-part series All Def Comedy, which started airing last Friday and showcases emerging and established stand-up comedians.
“The series is a platform for promising and upcoming comedians and we do not want to deprive them of an opportunity to showcase their talents to a national audience. We have no other projects with Russell Simmons,” HBO said.
Russell Simmons is the latest powerful man in the entertainment industry to be accused of sexual misconduct.
Today show host Matt Lauer on Thursday apologised for “troubling flaws” after being fired by NBC television for inappropriate behavior.