Russell Simmons is stepping down from his businesses after screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1991.
“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,” the Def Jam Recordings cofounder, 60, said in a statement to Us Weekly on Thursday, November 30. “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.”
He 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.”
The news comes just a few hours after Lumet, 50, detailed her alleged 1991 encounter with Simmons in an open letter published by The Hollywood Reporter. She claimed he intimidated her into having sex with him, writing, “I simply did what I was told. There was penetration. … I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating. I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult. I wanted to stay as contained as I could.”
The screenwriter isn’t the first to accuse Simmons of misconduct. The Los Angeles Times reported on November 19 that he and film producer Brett Ratner allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted women as a duo. “They were in it together,” model Keri Claussen Khalighi claimed to the newspaper. Both men denied the allegations at the time.