Fashion mogul, music, and TV super-producer Russell Simmons says he’s removing himself from his various companies after screenwriter Jenny Lumet claimed in a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter that the Def Jam co-founder forced her to have sex in 1991.
“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,” Simmons wrote in a statement to THR. “While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades and I sincerely apologize.”
Announcing his resignation from the entertainment empire he created — Simmons’s holding company, Rush Communications, houses his yoga lifestyle brand Tantris, his powerful production company Def Jam Enterprises, among others — and hand it over to “a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives.”
“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,” Simmons said in his statement.
“The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward,” Simmons said. “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.”
In her letter, Lumet details how Simmons allegedly forced her to have sex with him after pressuring her into going to his apartment:
There was penetration. At one point you were only semi-erect and appeared frustrated. Angry? I remember being afraid that you would deem that my fault and become violent. I did not know if you were angry, but I was afraid that you were.
I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating. I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult. I wanted to stay as contained as I could.
You told me to turn over on my stomach. You said something about a part of my body. You did not ejaculate inside me.
When it was over, I got my clothes and quickly went down in the elevator by myself. You didn’t try to stop me.
Lumet, the daughter of veteran filmmaker Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of iconic singer Lena Horne, is the latest to claim sexual abuse against Simmons.
Keri Claussen Khalighi told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month that a then-33-year-old Simmons sexually assaulted her when she was a 17-year-old model, and alleged that disgraced film producer Brett Ratner was present during the alleged encounter. Simmons, in a statement, “completely and unequivocally” denied Khalighi’s claim.
Simmons is the latest major entertainment figure to be accused of sexual assault.