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Oprah Winfrey Says She Didn't Leave #MeToo Documentary Because Of Russell Simmons: 'I Cannot Be Silenced'

"This is not a victory for Russell, and I unequivocally say that I did not pull out because of Russell," the media mogul added.
Oprah Winfrey Reveals Why She Left Russell Simmons #MeToo Documentary
John Filo/CBS

Oprah Winfrey appeared on CBS This Morning Tuesday, where she explained why she decided to step away from the upcoming Russell Simmons documentary, which details years of alleged sexual misconduct at the hands of the music mogul.

Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s previously untitled documentary, On The Record, is set to premiere at Sundance this week, but Winfrey’s recent decision to step away from the project has stirred up some controversy.

During her appearance on CBS This Morning, Winfrey said the documentary had “some inconsistencies in the stories that we need to look at.”

The media mogul also confirmed that she was not pressured by Simmons to leave the project.

“It was a hard decision because I knew that Russell Simmons had started publicly pressuring me [on social media] and that me pulling out of the documentary was going to look like I was being pressured,” she began.

Indeed, last month Russell shared in an Instagram caption that he found it “troubling” that Winfrey had joined the documentary, which is slated to be released on Apple TV+ , as an executive producer.

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Dearest OPRAH,you have been a shining light to my family and my community. Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog.Ihave given you the gift of meditation and the groundbreaking book”THE POWER OF NOW “we bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentry. I have already admitted to being a playboy more (appropriately titled today “womanizer”) sleeping with and putting myself in more compromising situations than almost any man I know. Not 8 or 14 thousand like Warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain, but still an embarrassing number. So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences. Please note that ur producers said that this upcoming doc was to focus ONLY on 3 hand chosen women. I have refused to get in the mud with any accusers, but let’s acknowledge what i have shared. I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detector tests (taken for my daughters), that these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, BUZZFEED, NY POST, NY MAG, AND OTHERS. Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that “hurt people hurt people”. Today I received a call from an old girlfriend from the early 1980s which means that they are using my words/evidence against me and their COMMITMENT/ (all of the claims are 25 to 40 years old) It is impossible to prove what happened 40 years ago, but in my case proof exists of what didn’t happen, mostly signed letters from their own parents, siblings, roommates, band members, interns, and in the case of 2 of your 3 accusers,their own words in their books. Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money. … In closing, I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society, but i have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. Still I am here to help support a necessary shift in power and consciousness. Let us get to work on uplifting humanity and put this moment and old narrative behind us

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Calling himself a “playboy” and a “womanizer” in the lengthy caption, Russell continued to deny all sexual assault allegations levied against him by several women, writing: “I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detector tests,” he continued. “These stories are UNUSABLE.”

Winfrey said Tuesday, however, that “this is not a victory for Russell, and I unequivocally say that I did not pull out because of Russell. This is not a victory lap for him. I cannot be silenced by Russell Simmons after all I’ve been through.”

The media mogul added that it’s important she be open about her support of the women who have come forward.

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“I believe the women’s voices deserve to be heard,” Winfrey said, before adding, “As an executive producer, I was also in a position where I think things were not right. I wanted the context of the story to be broadened, I wanted more women to be brought in.”

On The Record focuses on music executive Drew Dixon, whose life and career are forever changed by the abuse she allegedly faced from men in the industry.

The film premieres at Sundance on January 25.