Hip-hop icon Russell Simmons is stepping down from his companies after screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused him of forcing her to have sex with him in 1991.
Simmons, the founder of hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings and CEO of Rush Communications, released a statement Thursday hours after Lumet detailed the alleged assault in an open letter to Simmons in the Hollywood Reporter. In it, Lumet said Simmons offered to give her a ride to her New York City apartment after a night out with mutual friends. But instead, Lumet said, Simmons instructed his driver to go to his home. When Lumet insisted on returning to her 19th Street apartment, Simmons said “no” multiple times, and locked the car doors.
“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,” Lumet wrote.
Simmons guided Lumet into an elevator, and forced himself on her despite her pleas to “wait.” Once in his apartment, Lumet said, Simmons had sex with her against her will.
“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,” Lumet wrote.
The letter continued, “When it was over, I got my clothes and quickly went down in the elevator by myself. You didn’t try to stop me. I went home in a taxi. I was grateful to be secure in my home. I never told anyone this story until October 27th of this year (after the Harvey Weinstein story was in the news, but weeks before the first public claims were made against you), when I told a girlfriend from childhood.”
Simmons wrote in his statement Thursday that Lumet’s “memory of that evening is very different from mine,” but acknowledged 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,” he wrote, saying that he will step aside from his career and commit himself to “continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.”
The assault claims from Lumet, who wrote “Rachel Getting Married” and “The Mummy,” are not the first accusations of sexual misconduct against the music mogul. On Nov. 19, model Keri Claussen Khalighi revealed in the Los Angeles Times that Simmons had sexually assaulted and harassed her; claims which Simmons denied.
Lumet said she didn’t personally know other women who have accused Simmons of sexual assault, but that she couldn’t “leave those women twisting in the wind.”