Russell Simmons is stepping down from his companies after being accused of sexual assault by writer Jenny Lumet. In a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter, Lumet accuses the Def Jam co-founder of forcing her to have sex in 1991. In a statement, Simmons said he had a different recollection of their encounter, but said Lumet’s “feelings of fear and intimidation are real.” He apologized to Lumet, who is the daughter of director Sidney Lumet and the screenwriter behind “Rachel Getting Married.”
“There is so much guilt, and so much shame,” Lumet wrote in her column. “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. 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.”
For his part, Simmons said, “While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades and I sincerely and humbly apologize.”
In addition to his music work, Simmons is a successful film and television producer and the founder of such clothing fashion lines as Phat Farm and Tantris. This isn’t the first time he has been accused of harassment or assault. Earlier this month, model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons of forcing her to have sex. She said the businessman worked in conjunction with director Brett Ratner to lure her to his apartment. Another woman, Tanya Reid, also accused Simmons of pressuring her to perform oral sex on Ratner. Both men deny the allegations.
Simmons did say the culture is going through “a time of great transition,” and said he did not want to be a distraction from the work of his companies. He also plans to convert a studio he founded for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing.
“The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward,” said Simmons, adding, “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 become engulfed in a sexual harassment or assault scandal. In recent weeks, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and John Lasseter have all been dogged by claims of sexual misdeeds or crimes.
Seen first at Variety