Oprah Winfrey reiterated why she pulled her support from the documentary about the sexual assault accusations against Russell Simmons, saying that his pressure had nothing to do with it and that this is not a “victory lap” for the Def Jam Records co-founder.
“This is not a victory for Russell, and I unequivocally say I did not pull out because of Russell. This is not a victory lap for him. I cannot be silenced by Russell Simmons for all I’ve been through,” Winfrey said on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday.
Winfrey clarified that she took her name off of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s documentary, now titled “On the Record,” because she felt new information had surfaced and those issues would not be able to be addressed in time before the movie was set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.
“Before the public pressure had started, before Russell had gone with his Instagram, I had gone to the filmmakers, and I said to them, ‘Houston I think we had a problem because new information had come forward,’ the very first time this was announced,” Winfrey said. “And I said ‘I think I think we need to pull out of Sundance and if we can’t pull out of Sundance, I’m going to have to take my name off. But I don’t want to pull my name off, because it’s going to be a big hullabaloo.'”
“We need to get it right. There’s some inconsistencies in the story that we need to look at,” Winfrey continued.
“On the Record” is directed by “The Hunting Ground” and “The Invisible War” directors Dick and Ziering and most notably follows former music executive Drew Dixon at the beginning of the #MeToo movement as she grapples with the decision to come forward about her accusations about Simmons. Dixon says she was raped by Simmons in his apartment in 1995 and quit the company shortly after. Simmons has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex.
Winfrey however mentioned that the story of a new accuser, Alexia Norton Jones, had come to light, and she felt the documentary needed to be expanded and broadened to include her as well.
“Until the thing is on the screen, you have the right to change your mind and make changes,” Winfrey said, adding what she learned from this experience. “Don’t put your name on anything that you do not have creative control over.”
Winfrey also pushed back on the notion that she’s not supporting the stories of black women.
To me that is ridiculous, and also ridiculous to think I could be intimidated by Russell Simmons,” she added.
Winfrey told The New York Times last week that Simmons had contacted and pressured her to drop her support from the documentary and was even contacted by other people questioning Dixon’s credibility.
“He did reach out multiple times and attempted to pressure me,” Winfrey told the Times. “I told him directly in a phone call that I will not be pressured either into, or out of, backing this film. I am only going to do what I believe to be the right thing.”
Winfrey’s decision to break from the documentary also resulted in it being dropped from airing on Apple TV+ later this year. In a statement to TheWrap, she explained she still supports the work of the filmmakers, but that the desire to take the film to Sundance is what forced her to step away.
“Revealing hard truths is never easy, and the women in our documentary are all showing extraordinary strength and courage by raising their voices to address sexual abuse in the music industry,” Dick and Ziering said in a follow-up statement earlier this month. “While we are disappointed that Oprah Winfrey is no longer an executive producer on the project, we are gratified that Winfrey has unequivocally said she believes and supports the survivors in the film.”
Check out Oprah’s full interview on “CBS This Morning” above.