As it stands now, 11 different women have stepped forward to accuse Russell Simmons of sexual predatory behavior.
Nine of them did so through reports published by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, respectively. Since then, another woman has turned to Page Six to accuse the Def Jam founder of misconduct. Previously, a woman took to The Hollywood Reporter to pen an open letter alleging that Simmons, too, violated her. These women are artists, writers, models, actresses, and music industry veterans. They are known as “fashion PR powerhouses” and include the granddaughter of the late Lena Horne. Their accusations range from sexual harassment to attempted rape to violent rape. The accusations span decades and speak into varied periods of Simmons’ storied career.
In late November, before the latest wave of allegations leveled against him, Simmons issued a lengthy statement in response to one accuser. In it, he denied committing “any acts of aggression or violence in my life,” claiming that he “would never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone.” Yet, he did say, “For any women from my past who I may have offended, I sincerely apologize. I am still evolving.”
The woman who sparked this response, model Keri Claussen Khalighi, disputed Simmons’ denials that he sexually assaulted her when she was 17. In a new interview on Megyn Kelly Today, Khalighi claimed that she engaged in multiple conversations with Simmons about her alleged assault. “Russell and I have actually had a face-to-face confrontation about what happened, we’ve had phone conversations where there was no dispute about what we were talking about. And he actually apologized,” she explained.
There was something else she said, that now speaks to the manner in which Simmons is responding to the latest round of allegations. “Part of what’s so confusing and re-traumatizing is that what he’s speaking about privately with me is completely different from what’s come out publicly,” Khalighi noted.”That’s the piece that’s been, quite honestly, repugnant with hypocrisy and the lies and the denial.”
On Dec.13, Simmons issued another lengthy statement on Instagram, writing, “Although I have been candid about how I have lived in books and interviews detailing my flaws, I will relentlessly fight against any untruthful character assassination that paints me as a man of violence.” While true enough it is Simmons’ right to defend himself, there is a manner of decorum in which he should have maintained.
Enter the next day, where Simmons again took to Instagram using the hashtag #NotMe — an obvious response to the #MeToo movement that’s currently ushering in a wave of repercussions for powerful men in the entertainment industry never before seen. Although Simmons claims his intent is “not to diminish the #MeToo movement in anyway,” that’s exactly what he’s doing.
It’s one thing to defend one’s self against allegations, but it’s another to do so in a manner that screams spectacle.
The same can be said of Simmons turning to a polygraph test and TMZ somehow obtaining footage of it. Many stateshave long banned the use of polygraph tests in rape cases because they have been proven to be unreliable. Indeed, the federal Violence Against Women Act of 2005 prohibits forcing a rape victim to take a lie detector test. False allegations of rape are rare — with only between 2 percent and 10 percent of rape accusations estimated to be false. As Sandra Newman noted in the Quartz report “What kind of person makes false rape accusations? False rape allegations rarely ever even lead to serious consequences. Newman pointed to the National Registry of Exonerations, which began to keep records in 1989, and noted that “in the US there are only 52 cases where men convicted of sexual assault were exonerated because it turned out they were falsely accused. By way of comparison, in the same period, there are 790 cases in which people were exonerated for murder.”
Although the NYPD has reportedly opened an investigation into Simmons in light of the allegations leveled against them, most of his accusers have claimed their assaults took place decades ago — leaving no room for prosecution thanks to the statute of limitations. If Simmons wants to claim his innocence, again, that’s his right, but spare us the theatrics and please stop being even more embarrassing.
This is not a criminal trial, and while Simmons may want to fight for what little is left of his public image, this latest stunt does not spur sympathy but only more indignation. Fact is, Simmons has had plenty of time to speak and act. Too many of these women have similar stories. As for a penchant for 17-year-old models, well, Google when he met his ex-wife, Kimora Lee Simmons.
The #MeToo movement has provided women an opportunity to overcome their longstanding nightmares associated with their assailants who for so long were untouchable. This is not the time for a pompous, delusional, and imbecilic counter-narrative to be launched — and that is exactly what Simmons #NotMe is.
I don’t know if Russell Simmons’ publicist has abandoned him in light of what’s taken place in recent weeks, but here’s a free one for him: this ain’t the way.