Russell Simmons has announced that he will “step aside” from the companies he founded, Def Jam Records and his Phat Farm clothing line, after being accused of sexual assault by screenwriter Jenny Lumet. Lumet, who wrote Rachel Getting Married, detailed her experience with Simmons on a night circa 1991 in a letter to The Hollywood Reporter after Simmons previously denied another accusation from former model Keri Claussen Khalighi and claimed “I never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life.”
In her letter, Lumet describes being picked up by Simmons, who offered her a ride home in his car with a driver. Simmons, Lumet claims, then gave his address, and refused to drive her home when she insisted. Once in Simmons’s building, Lumet said, “You used your size to maneuver me, quickly, into the elevator.” Then, she claims, he took her to his apartment, and had sex with her. “At one point you were only semi-erect and appeared frustrated. Angry?” Lumet writes. “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.” Lumet says she did not tell her story to anyone until this year, after the Harvey Weinstein story was in the news. “I don’t recall ever meeting any of the women who have spoken out against you, Russell,” Lumet writes. “But I can’t leave those women twisting in the wind.”
In response to Lumet’s letter, Simmons wrote:
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.