Russell Simmons steps down after sexual assault allegation
Russell Simmons is stepping down from his companies in the wake of an accusation of harassment and sexual assault.
Simmons, the founder of hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings and CEO of Rush Communications, released a statement on Thursday after screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused him of forcing her to have sex with him in 1991. She detailed the encounter in a guest column published by The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.
“I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991,” Simmons said in a statement. “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.”
The statement continued: “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.”
In Lumet’s column she wrote that, “maybe recalling of this incident can be helpful” to other women who have spoken out against Simmons, but realizes there’s a lot at stake in coming forward with her story.
“There is so much guilt, and so much shame,” Lumet wrote. “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.”
This latest accusation made by Lumet comes after a report by the Los Angeles Times published on November 19 that detailed allegations of sexual misconduct made against director Brett Ratner and Simmons. A woman quoted in the story said Ratner and Simmons were “in it together.”
Ratner and Simmons denied the allegations, with Simmons adding that, “abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being.”
Simmons, 60, got his start in the music industry in the early 80s managing his younger brother, Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons’ hip-hop group, Run-D.M.C. The group is widely hailed as an early pioneer of hip hop music. Simmons co-founded Def Jam Recordings alongside Rick Rubin in 1984. Some of the biggest names in hip hop have at one point or another been signed to the label: Jay-Z, Public Enemy, LL Cool J and currently Iggy Azalea and Justin Bieber to name a few.
But it’s not just music that helped make Simmons a household name. He went on to create several successful clothing lines, including Phat Farm, Argyleculture and Tantris.
Under his company Rush Communications Inc., Simmons has also been heavily involved in philanthropy. In 1995, he and his brothers, Rev. Run and Danny Simmons, co-founded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which helps expose inner city youth to the arts. Simmons was named a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN in 2009 and has also been a strong supporter of gay rights and animal rights. In recent years, Simmons has been very vocal about his spirituality, calling himself a “Christian yogi.” In 2016, he opened a yoga studio in Los Angeles called Tantris.
Simmons joins a long list of Hollywood power players who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the last two months. Two exposés published in October that detailed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s alleged harassment and assault against women opened the floodgates for others to come forward with their experiences. Weinstein has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.
Since then, some of media’s biggest names, including Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Mark Halperin, have been terminated from their jobs or lost lucrative deals over similar allegations of sexual misconduct.
CNN reached out to Simmons’ representatives for comment who directed us to Simmons’ official statement.