Legendary music and entertainment producer Russell Simmons tried dodging an allegation of sexual assault last week, but he may have dug his own career grave with the denial. The LA Times published an account of a rape in which both Simmons and mega-movie producer Brett Ratner participated, according to model Keri Claussen Khaligi. Both men issued denials, with Simmons claiming, “I have never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life. I would never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone.”
Not so fast, writes Jenny Lumet, Hollywood royalty herself. The daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of icon Lena Horne tells a story of her own victimization by Simmons in the Hollywood Reporter today:
I saw no one else. I recall you were behind me. I was still hoping the Russell I knew would reappear, as I could not recognize the man moving me deeper into the apartment — the man who had said “No” to his driver. Twice.
You moved me into a bedroom. I said “Wait.” You said nothing.
I made the trade in my mind. I thought “just keep him calm and you’ll get home.” Maybe another person would have thought differently, or not made the trade.
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. 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.
Be sure to read it all, as Horne describes the entire evening’s events in horrifying, claustrophobic detail. Lumet also points out that she hardly needs or desires the attention. “I’m aware that every mistake, act of thoughtlessness, hypocrisy or cruelty I’ve committed in my 50 years will be excavated,” Lumet writes, and her children will “see all of it.” However, Lumet decides, she “can’t leave those women twisting in the wind,” either, referring to Claussen Khaligi and others who have not yet gone on the record in the LAT article.
Simmons stopped his full denials after getting a heads-up on Lumet’s essay. Instead, he opted for the Franken/Lauer passive-denial statement, complete with an expressed desire to undertake a journey of “healing”:
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.
This has the same flaws, and the same benefits, as Franken’s statements this week. “While her memory of that evening is very different than mine” essentially states that Lumet is lying. What is Simmons’ recollection of that evening? Why not share them? This is a modified limited hangout that admits nothing at all, dressed up in woke rhetoric and filled with promises of atonement for nothing. At least the explicit denials have stopped, but this isn’t all that much better.
Exit question: Which person will Lisa Bloom represent — Simmons or Lumet?