Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons has indicated that he is to step down from his various business ventures after new allegations of sexual misconduct. Meanwhile, HBO have announced that are cutting their ties with the mogul.
Earlier this month, 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. Ratner denies all allegations of sexual misconduct.
Simmons previously denied Khalighi’s accusations, saying that he had “never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life” and “would never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone”.
Now, in an open letter published by The Hollywood Reporter, screenwriter and actress Jenny Lumet accuses Simmons of forcing her to have sex with him in 1991, locking her in his car and not allowing her to go home. “As a woman of colour, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of colour,” she writes.
In response, Simmons has stated that he is stepping down from his businesses to “commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.”
His statement reads in full:
“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 apologise.
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 centre 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.”
HBO has said that All Def Comedy, a show Simmons helped produce, will still air on Friday (December 1) but the network will edit out any link to the star.
“Simmons will not appear in the new series and we will be removing his name from the show moving forward,” reads a statement. “We have no other projects with Russell Simmons.”