Russell Simmons Steps Down From His Businesses Amid New Sexual Misconduct Allegation
By Alex Ungerman
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Russell Simmons is stepping down.
In response to a new allegation of past sexual misconduct by writer Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married, The Mummy), the 60-year-old music mogul penned a letter announcing he will remove himself from Def Jam Recordings, as well as a Los Angeles yoga studio he founded.
Lumet alleges in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, that in 1991, when she was 24 years old, Simmons offered her a ride home from a restaurant. She explains that she and Simmons had a generally friendly relationship since meeting in 1987, claiming he "lightly" pursued her, though she turned him down, adding it was "never a big deal."
However, upon accepting the ride in 1991, Lumet alleges that changed. Lumet claims that Simmons twice said "no" when she asked the driver to take her to her apartment, who instead allegedly drove the two to Simmons' place. Lumet claims that there, Simmons made a non-consensual sexual advance to her, further claiming that she tried not to "escalate" the situation out of fear he would become angry or violent.
Lumet expressed "guilt" and "shame" in coming forward with her allegation, explaining, "As a woman of color, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of color."
Both parties agree that they had several run-ins in the years since the alleged incident. In Simmons statement, he said, "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," he added. "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," Simmons continued. "As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening."
After the allegation, HBO revealed that Simmons would be cut from the upcoming All Def Comedy stand-up series set to air in December.
"HBO will be airing All Def Comedy as planned," the network tells ET in a statement. "However, Russell Simmons will not appear in the new series and we will be removing his name from the show moving forward. 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."
This is not the only allegation of sexual misconduct that has been made against Simmons.
To that allegation, Simmons responded, "I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being," noting, "I am a supporter of the #MeToo campaign and the victims who were previously terrified to stand up and speak out against sexual misconduct."
"I know Keri Claussen Khalighi and remember the weekend in 1991 that she has referenced," he continued. "Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation. We spent time in my apartment over a period of two days and one night, as well as at some public places including Nell’s Nightclub. I’m deeply saddened and truly shocked to learn of Keri’s assertions as to what happened over the course of that weekend."
ET also reached out to Ratner's rep in regard to the allegations. Earlier this month, Ratner was accused by multiple women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge, of sexual misconduct. Ratner's attorney, Marty Singer, said that the producer “vehemently disputes” the allegations against him.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 19, Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews -- who came forward with his own story of allegedly being groped by a Hollywood agent -- tweeted out an email he alleged was from Simmons, suggesting he "give the agent a pass."
Message Russell Simmons sent to me regarding my sexual assault case against Adam Venit of @WME: