Rap mogul Russell Simmons has become the latest prominent Hollywood figure to be accused of sexual assault, after a woman came forward to detail an incident alleged to have occurred at Simmons’s New York City apartment in 1991 in which film director Brett Ratner was also allegedly involved.
Keri Claussen Khalighi told the Los Angeles Times she was a 17-year-old model when Simmons and Ratner invited her to dinner at New York City restaurant Mr. Chow. After dinner, the pair reportedly invited Khalighi back to Simmons’s apartment to show her a music video they had been working on.
The visit to Simmons’s apartment quickly turned sexual, Khalighi alleged.
The Times reported:
Quickly, Simmons began making aggressive sexual advances, yanking off her clothes, Khalighi said.
“I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” she recalled. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.”
Khalighi said that Simmons, who was then about twice her age, tried to force her to have intercourse. “I fought it wildly,” she said. He eventually relented and coerced her to perform oral sex, she alleged. “I guess I just acquiesced.”
Ratner, meanwhile, “just sat there and watched,” she said.
Feeling “disgusting,” Khalighi said she went to take a shower. Minutes later, she alleged, Simmons walked up behind her in the shower and briefly penetrated her without her consent. She said she jerked away, then he left. “It hurt so much.”
In a statement Sunday, Simmons — who co-founded the Def Jam Recordings record label in 1983 and quickly became a highly influential figure in rap and hip-hop — “completely and unequivocally” denied Khalighi’s claim.
“I know Keri Claussen Khalighi and remember the weekend in 1991 that she has referenced. Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation,” Simmons said. “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. Much of the time we were in the presence of other acquaintances. I’m deeply saddened and truly shocked to learn of Keri’s assertions as to what happened over the course of that weekend.”
“Let me be crystal clear and very direct. Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being,” he added.
The Times story goes on to detail the close relationship between Simmons and Ratner, who reportedly spent much time partying together in New York City in the 1990s. Ratner was hit with separate claims of sexual misconduct this month, after six women came forward to detail alleged incidents with the director. Warner Bros. has since cut ties with the filmmaker, whose RatPac Entertainment production outfit most recently co-financed the studio’s superhero tentpole, Justice League.
The Times‘s Sunday story includes more allegations against Ratner.
Tanya Reid, a former model who was 18 when she said she met Ratner, accused the director of exposing himself, placing her hand on his crotch and asking for oral sex in an alleged incident at her apartment. Reid told the paper she relented as Ratner allegedly used his hand to place her head near his crotch. The director denied recalling the incident in a statement to the paper through his attorney, Martin Singer.
Jaymee Ong, a model and actress, also accused Ratner of groping her and exposing himself to her at his Hillhaven Lodge estate in 2001. The director’s attorney also denied the claim in a statement to the paper.
Simmons and Ratner are just two of the nearly 80 prominent figures in the entertainment and media industries to have been accused of sexual misconduct in recent weeks. Women began coming forward to share stories of mistreatment in Hollywood after the New York Times published a bombshell exposé on film producer Harvey Weinstein in early October.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum