Russell Simmons issues new statement following sexual assault allegations

Music mogul claims sexual encounter with accuser was "consensual"

Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons has issued a new statement following recent allegations of sexual assault.

Last week, Simmons was accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with filmmaker Brett Ratner. Model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons of sexually assaulting and harassing her at his New York apartment in 1991 while Ratner was present. She was 17 at the time.

Having previously denied the accusations, Simmons has now penned a lengthy statement in response, published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Simmons opens by commenting on the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood, saying that he does “not doubt that the vast majority of the allegations these brave survivors are sharing are true and dignified”.

However, he adds that he “know[s] from recent painful personal experience that some recollections can be cast in a light away from the actual facts.”

Simmons goes on to claim that his sexual encounter with Khalighi was “consensual”, saying that he has three witnesses who refute Khalighi’s account.

“My longtime loathing of any form of violence and abuse has been woven into all of my personal interactions, as most who know me will attest,” he writes.

Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner

Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner

Simmons goes on to add: “I have made choices that have offended some of the women in my life. It’s not cool to be a playboy and a new consciousness understands this. Now, as I hear these voices, I do as well. Though never abusive in any way, my remarks were often cavalier and thoughtless, and for this I am humbled. I am a work in progress. I am human.”

“To all the #MeToo campaigns and women around the world, I support your healing and will continue to be an honest and imperfect advocate for the voiceless (including animals) and humanity as a whole.”

Read Simmons statement in full below:

“Humanity is going through a powerful and wrenching shift of consciousness that I believe will ultimately lead to a mass awakening in all humankind.

Like all lasting change, this transition is filled with painful disruption and confrontation against an entrenched system. It may sound odd to some that I am encouraged about this time in our history, but I am. The daily news detailing the growing number of experiences of women being victimized are being brought to the light. I do not doubt that the vast majority of the allegations these brave survivors are sharing are true and dignified. I see their stories giving a voice to the voiceless, which has been the central theme of my life’s journey.

I also know from recent painful personal experience that some recollections can be cast in a light away from the actual facts.

In my case, three witnesses [Anthony McNair and two anonymous witnesses] have signed statements that our experiences that weekend with Keri Claussen Khalighi 26 years ago were consensual. My longtime loathing of any form of violence and abuse has been woven into all of my personal interactions, as most who know me will attest.

In our meeting many years later, and subsequent conversations, Keri never accused me of what she has said publicly. She insisted I was not violent. She did tell me her boyfriend and many others found out about our long weekend together and she said she was ashamed by that discovery. I am sorry for the embarrassment she recounted to me.

I have made choices that have offended some of the women in my life. It’s not cool to be a playboy and a new consciousness understands this. Now, as I hear these voices, I do as well. Though never abusive in any way, my remarks were often cavalier and thoughtless, and for this I am humbled. I am a work in progress. I am human. The fact that I come from the world of music or a specific place or generation justifies nothing.

That has been an ongoing deep transition in my life. As a yogi I believe intent is very important. My intent always came from a joyful, playful place. I can sleep at night because I know who I am. And I know who I was. I never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life. I would never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone. For any women from my past who I may have offended, I sincerely apologize. I am still evolving.

As the dialogue progresses, let’s not lose sight of what’s truly happening, a shift in power and all that entails. I want that shift. It must lead to a space where women and also men can heal, even if it means attacking me. I remain an activist for women’s rights and all things unjust. This is my life’s work and journey, and God knows my heart. To all the #MeToo campaigns and women around the world, I support your healing and will continue to be an honest and imperfect advocate for the voiceless (including animals) and humanity as a whole.”

In her detailed account, Khalighi alleged that Simmons tried to force her to have intercourse with him and later coerced her into performing oral sex. Ratner, she claimed, “just sat there and watched”. “I looked over at Brett and said, ‘Help me’, and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” she said. “In that moment, the realisation fell on me that they were in it together.”

Khalighi also claimed that Simmons briefly penetrated her without her consent while she took a shower. 

Both men disputed her account. In a previous statement, Simmons said: “Everything that occurred between Keri and me occurred with her full consent and participation.” He added that much of the time they spent together over two days and one night was spent with other people, or in public.

Through his attorney Martin Singer, Ratner said he had “no recollection” of Khalighi asking him for help, and denied seeing her “protest”.

Meanwhile, Simmons has also been accused of emailing Terry Crews to tell him to give the agent he claims sexually assaulted him “a pass”.

Several allegations of sexual misconduct have previously been made against Ratner. He has denied all of them.