November 30, 2017


Russell Simmons Steps Down From Companies After Jenny Lumet's Sexual Assault Claim

Bennett Raglin/WireImage
Bennett Raglin/WireImage

Russell Simmons announced he will be stepping down from his companies, which includes Def Jam Records and Rush Communications, following a sexual assault accusation. Jenny Lumet, a screenwriter behind movies like Rachel Getting Married, revealed Simmons forced her to have sex in 1991.

There is so much guilt, and so much shame. There is an excruciating internal reckoning. As a woman of color, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of color," Lumet wrote in her column for The Hollywood Reporter. "Again, shame about who I was years ago, choices made years ago. In this very moment, I feel a pang to protect your daughters. I don't think you are inclined to protect mine."

Lumet describes the night with Simmons offering his driver to take her home. After refusing to take her to the destination, the two end up in his apartment building. "It was dark but not pitch-dark. You closed the door. At that point, I simply did what I was told. There was penetration. At one point you were only semi-erect and appeared frustrated," she recalls. "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."

Simmons later wrote a statement in response to Lumet's claim, saying her recollection of the night was different than hers:

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 apologize.

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 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.

Simmons is the latest high profile figure to be involved sexual harassment or assault scandal. He follows Matt LauerKevin SpaceyHarvey WeinsteinCharlie RoseLouis C.K.Dustin Hoffman and countless others.