Entertainment and fashion icon Russell Simmons announced Thursday that he will step down from his companies after a friend accused him of sexually assaulting her in the early 1990s.
Screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused Simmons, known for co-founding Def Jam Records and leading media holding company Rush Communications, of forcing her to have sex against her will in a first-person essay published in the Hollywood Reporter Thursday.
In response, Simmons announced that he will remove himself from leading his business ventures. “I don’t want to be a distraction so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded,” Simmons said.
Lumet, screenwriter of “Rachel Getting Married” and “The Mummy,” described in great detail how Simmons pursued her for several years before coaxing her into his private car one night sometime around 1991 after she dined at an Los Angeles restaurant. “You had a car and a driver that evening. Sometime later, you offered me a ride to my home,” Lumet said.
“At no time that night did I say: ‘Russell, I will go home with you’. Or, ‘Come home with me.’ Or ‘I will have sex with you.’ Or ‘I have the desire to have sex with you,'” Lumet recalled. Lumet said she gave her address to the driver, but Simmons told the Driver “no.”
Simmons reportedly ushered Lumet into his apartment building by a poorly lit, unstaffed entrance, and took her to his bedroom. “You used your size to maneuver me, quickly, into the elevator,” Lumet wrote.
Lumet said she told Simmons to wait several times, but he did not respond. “At that point, I simply did what I was told,” Lumet said.
At no point did Simmons punch or hit her, Lumet said, and she did not struggle.
“There was penetration. At one point you were only semi-erect and appeared frustrated. Angry? I remember being afraid that you would deem that my fault and become violent. I did not know if you were angry, but I was afraid that you were,” Lumet wrote.
“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,” Lumet added.
Lumet left on her own, and did not tell anyone about the encounter for years, until reports of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment came out this fall.
In his response, Simmons said he recalls the night with Lumet differently, but admitted that he has been “thoughtless and insensitive” in some of his relationships.
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.
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