Actor Asia Argento has denied claims she sexually assaulted a former child star when he was 17 years old.
It was reported earlier this week that Argento had paid Jimmy Bennett $380,000 (£297,000) in a settlement after he filed a notice of intent to sue over an alleged incident at a Californian hotel in 2013.
The actor had remained silent over the claims but today denied they were true in a statement obtained by the Guardian. “I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false,” she said. “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
Argento, who was one of the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, said she and Bennett were “linked by friendship only.”
The statement continued: “Subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett – who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages – unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me.”
According to Argento, the money Bennett received from the settlement was paid to him by her partner, the late Anthony Bourdain, who wanted to avoid “negative publicity.”
“Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect,” she said. “Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such a person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us.
“We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department has confirmed investigators will look to talk to Bennett or his representatives about his claims.
Yesterday (August 20), Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer responded to the allegations made against Argento. “This development reveals a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento, one of the most vocal catalysts who sought to destroy Harvey Weinstein,” said Ben Brafman in a statement.
“What perhaps is the most egregious is the timing, which suggests that at the very same time Argento was working on her own secret settlement for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor, she was positioning herself at the forefront of those condemning Mr. Weinstein, despite the fact that her sexual relationship with Mr. Weinstein was between two consenting adults which lasted for more than four years.”