Music and TV producer Russell Simmons announced his resignation from his entertainment companies following a second allegation of sexual assault this month.
Hollywood screenwriter and actress Jenny Lumet alleged Thursday that Simmons sexually assaulted her in 1991, after she accepted a ride home from him while they were leaving a restaurant. Simmons, founder of hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings and CEO of Rush Communications, said he has a “different recollection” of their encounter.
Lumet is known for her work as a screenwriter for “Rachel Getting Married” and “The Mummy.” She is the daughter of director Sidney Lumet. Singer and actress Lena Horne is her grandmother.
What did Lumet say?
Lumet wrote about her unwanted sexual encounter with Simmons in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter.
“I got into the car with you,” Lumet wrote, addressing Simmons directly in her column. “The driver began to drive. I assumed you knew where I lived, because you had sent me 250 balloons, but I gave the driver my address on 19th Street and 2nd Avenue.”
Lumet said Simmons told the driver, “No.”
After that, Lumet wrote, “the car doors locked. It was loud. The noise made me jump.”
She said she felt fearful and intimidated as Simmons and his driver ignored her and drove to Simmons’ apartment instead. Once there, the two men escorted her out of the car. Lumet, who said she was then around 24, alleged that the men rushed her into an elevator and quickly escorted her into a bedroom where Simmons sexually assaulted her.
She said she spoke out while fully understanding the consequences.
“I have built a life in the past 25 years and a reputation in my industry,” Lumet wrote. “I need no one to have this visualization of me. I will, like the others, lose work because of this.”
How did Simmons respond?
Simmons, 60, issued a written statement Thursday announcing his resignation and that will turn his companies — which also include his clothing lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture and Tantris — over to new executives to usher in a new generation and avoid being a “distraction.”
“I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991,” Simmons said in the statement. “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.
What is the other allegation against Simmons?
Lumet’s allegations follow accusations of sexual assault made by former fashion model Keri Claussen Khalighi.
Khalighi said Simmons raped her in 1991 when she was 17 years old, as film producer Brett Ratner allegedly watched.
Khalighi told the Los Angeles Times in a Nov. 19 report that she met the two at a casting call in New York City and later went to Simmons’ apartment to watch a music video. As Simmons allegedly tore off her clothes, Khalighi asked Ratner for help. She said that when Ratner did nothing, she realized they were both in on it.