Asia Argento strongly denied on Tuesday that she sexually assaulted actor Jimmy Bennett when he was underage.
In a statement, the actress and director also addressed a report that she had paid Bennett $380,000 following his accusation, saying that her boyfriend, deceased celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, “personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article,” she said in a statement to journalist Yashar Ali. “I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
Moreover, she said she was “linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett […] unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me. Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect …. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
Late Sunday, the Times reported that Argento arranged to pay a settlement last November to Jimmy Bennett, a now-22-year-old actor-musician who played Argento’s son in the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”
Documents obtained by the paper indicated that Bennett met Argento in a California hotel room in May 2013 — just two months after his 17th birthday — where he said she sexually assaulted him.
Bennett’s lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, had sent Argento an intent to sue her for $3.5 million in damages for infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery, according to the Times.
“I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all my competent venues,” Argento concluded her statement Tuesday.
Since coming forward in November with the allegations about Harvey Weinstein, Argento has become a leading figure in the #MeToo movement and was joined in the fight by her boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, who died in June of an apparent suicide.
Argento’s emergence as an advocate against sexual misconduct in the industry prompted Bennett to come forward, according to his attorney. “Feelings about that day were brought to the forefront recently when Ms. Argento took the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein,” Sattro wrote in his letter of intent to sue, the Times reported.
A spokesperson for Argento didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
“We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting, which was based on verified documents and multiple sources,” the Times said in a statement, which also reported that Bennett’s lawyer called Argento’s statement false.
Read her full statement below.
— Yashar Ali ???? (@yashar) August 21, 2018