Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons is stepping down from all of his companies in light of a disturbing accusation of sexual misconduct from screenwriter Jenny Lumet.
In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Lumet penned an open letter detailing how Simmons pursued her back when she used to work as a coat check girl at a Indochine in 1991. Lumet said she accepted Simmons offered for a ride home one night, but when Simmons told the driver not to take her there, things took a dark turn, and they wound up at his apartment building instead.
“I felt dread and disorientation. I wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go home. I didn’t recognize the man next to me. I didn’t know if the situation would turn violent. I remember thinking that I must be crazy; I remember hoping that the Russell I knew would return any moment.”
Lumen described how Simmons “used [his] size to maneuver [her]” into the elevator, despite her repeated insistence to “wait.” Eventually, the two arrived in Simmons’ bedroom and proceeded to have sex:
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.
You told me to turn over on my stomach. You said something about a part of my body. You did not ejaculate inside me.
Earlier this month, Simmons was hit by two more accusations of sexual harassment. Even though Lumet interacted with Simmons after their encounter and has never met anyone who has accused him of wrongdoing, she said she had to tell her story so his accusers wouldn’t be left “twisting in the wind.”
Simmons had this to say in response to Lumet’s allegations:
“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 and humbly 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.”
Read Lumet’s harrowing account of her encounter with Simmons here.
[Image via screengrab]
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