News November 30, 2017

Hip hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons steps down after more sexual assault allegations

Hip hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons steps down after more sexual assault allegations

Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons is stepping down from his companies after being accused in a magazine column of harassment and sexual assault by screenwriter Jenny Lumet.

Simmons, the founder of hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings and CEO of Rush Communications, made the decision after Lumet went public for the first time on how he forcing her to have sex with him in October 1991.

Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Lumet, who was 24 at the time, detailed how he offered to give her ride home from a social gathering. 

But in the car, he instructed his driver to take them to his apartment instead.

There he had started making unwanted advances She had protested, saying, “Wait, wait,” but she also feared for her safety, she wrote.

Last week Keri Claussen Khalighi told the Los Angeles Times that in 1991, when she was a 17-year old model, Simmons sexually assaulted her while film director Brett Ratner watched.

The story also included the account of Tanya Reid, an aspiring model working in a Miami hotel in 1994, who was invited by Simmons to his room.

There Ratner held her down while Simmons performed oral sex on her.

Simmons had sharply denied both these claims.

But after Lumet’s revelation, he issued a statement. 

“I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991,” it read.

“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.”

He said it was important for sexual allegations to be heard, and for business to continue.

The 60-year old added: “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.”

Unlike his first two accusers, Lumet is not an unknown. 

The daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet and the granddaughter of the legendary Lena Horne, she wrote 2017’s The Mummy and 2008’s Rachel Getting Married.

“There is so much guilt, and so much shame,” Lumet wrote. “There is an excruciating internal reckoning. 

“As a woman of color, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of color. 

“Again, shame about who I was years ago, choices made years ago. In this very moment, I feel a pang to protect your daughters. I don’t think you are inclined to protect mine.” 

Starting out as manager of the groundbreaking group Run-D.M.C., Simmons

co-founded Def Jam Recordings with Rick Rubin in 1984, which went on to sell millions of records. 

He expanded to fashion, setting up a number of labels, including Phat Farm, Argyleculture and Tantris.

Under Rush Communications Inc., he worked tirelessly for charity.

These included being a vocal supporter of gay and animal rights, as well as the #MeToo campaign, and exposing inner-city youth to the arts.

He had received awards for his role as Chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which promotes relations among Jewish, Muslim and black communities. 

He was named a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations in 2009.

Recently he had been following a spiritual path, and two years ago opened the Tantris yoga studio in Los Angeles. 

Simmons is the latest in Hollywood’s high powered executives who have lost their jobs following sexual assault allegations.

They include Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Mark Halperin.

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