Russell Simmons steps down from companies amid allegations

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Music mogul Russell Simmons, who founded Def Jam Records, says he is stepping down from his companies following a second allegation of sexual misconduct.

In an essay published by The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, screenwriter Jenny Lumet described a "circa 1991" incident in which she says Simmons offered her a ride home following a social gathering but instead took her to his New York apartment against her will and had sex with her.

Lumet says she was prompted to speak out by Simmons' denial earlier this month of a separate 1991 allegation of misconduct by another woman.

Simmons says in a statement released after the essay that although Lumet's memory of the night is "very different" from his, it's clear to him "that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real." He apologized for being "thoughtless and insensitive" in some of his relationships.

Simmons' full statement:

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. 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.

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 separate allegation Lumet referred to surrounds a then-17-year-old model, who claims Simmons sexually assaulted her in 1991, and producer Brett Ratner, recently accused of sexual misconduct, was there.

Keri Claussen Khalighi told the L.A. Times the incident happened after she met Ratner and Simmons at a casting call in New York.

She claimed they took her to dinner and then back to Simmons' apartment to show her a music video. Khalighi said that is when Simmons allegedly began making aggressive sexual advances.

She said in the article that Simmons took her clothes off and coerced her to perform oral sex all while Ratner "just sat there and watched."

In a statement, Simmons, now 60 years old, strongly disputed her account.

He said, in part: "As a long-time social activist, I have applauded the strength of the brave men and women who have spoken out over the past month and made their voices heard regarding sexual assault and harassment. I am a supporter of the #metoo campaign and the victims who were previously terrified to stand up and speak out against sexual misconduct. I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being."

There was no immediate comment from Ratner about the recent allegations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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