As sexual assault allegations against major players in media, entertainment and politics have piled up and many familiar faces have lost their jobs and their (in most cases) high standing in the public eye, the overwhelming majority of the men accused and reprimanded have been white. But now, mogul Russell Simmons is reprimanding himself over allegations. The 60-year-old is stepping down from his many companies over multiple claims of sexual misconduct.
He was previously accused by model Keri Claussen Khalighi of forcing her to have sex with him when she was 17, but the other shoe dropped when screenwriter Jenny Lumet (daughter of late film director Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of Lena Horne), shared a similar story. She wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter this week that detailed the night Simmons took her to his apartment instead of to her home after offering to drop her off at her residence in 1991. It’s a pretty disturbing story where Lumet says she was basically locked in his car by Simmons’ driver:
I got into the car with you. The driver began to drive. I assumed you knew where I lived, because you had sent me 250 balloons, but I gave the driver my address on 19th Street and 2nd Avenue.
You said to the driver: “No.”
I didn’t understand, so I said: “Russell?”
I said, again, to the driver: “19th Street.”
Again you said to the driver: “No. ”
Then, the car doors locked.
This second claim, made by a prominent name in filmmaking (she is behind the critically-acclaimed film, Rachel Getting Married), was enough to push Simmons to step down from his companies to re-evaluate past behavior. In response to Lumet’s story, he issued a statement with the announcement that he would be moving away from his businesses:
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.
As for what businesses he is stepping aside from, that includes Rush Communications, his yoga brand Tantris, Argyleculture Menswear and of course, Def Jam Enterprises.