Russell Simmons is the latest entertainment luminary to see his career tanked in a week that has already claimed those of NBC’s Matt Lauer and NPR’s Garrison Keillor. The Def Jam co-founder announced that he would step away from all his business ventures after screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused him of forcing her into sex.
In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Lumet – the daughter of famed filmmaker Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of singer Lena Horne – documented her own harrowing run-in with Simmons in 1991 that saw her get taken to his apartment against her will.
“You had a car and a driver that evening,” she wrote in the second person, directed at Simmons. “Sometime later, you offered me a ride to my home. I said, sure… At no time that night did I say: ‘Russell, I will go home with you’. Or, ‘Come home with me.’ Or ‘I will have sex with you.’ Or ‘I have the desire to have sex with you.’”
Lumet went on to accuse Simmons of locking the car doors and ordering the driver not to take Lumet to her home, but to his.
“I couldn’t open the doors. I couldn’t open the windows. The car was moving. The driver did not stop. He did not take me to [her home]. He took me to your apartment,” she recalled.
“At that point, I simply did what I was told. There was penetration,” Lumet said, claiming that Simmons had forcefully led her to his apartment but “didn’t punch me, drag me or verbally threaten me.”
In a statement, Simmons said that though “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.”
He also pointed to the groundswell of sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood in beyond as his impetus for cutting ties with his businesses.
“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,” he said. “The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward.”
Earlier this month, Simmons was accused by former model Keri Claussen Khalighi of sexually assaulting her while producer Brett Ratner watched, the Los Angeles Times reported. Simmons insisted that the encounter was consensual.