Russell Simmons ‘Stepping Aside From Companies’ Following Jenny Lumet Sexual Assault Accusation

Founder of Def Jam Records and Phat Farm clothing line responds to screenwriter’s blog post

Russell Simmons
Getty Images

Russell Simmons is “stepping aside” from his companies in the wake of numerous sexual assault accusations.

The most recent account came from actress and “Rachel Getting Married” screenwriter Jenny Lumet, who on Thursday penned a guest blog for the Hollywood Reporter. Last week, the Def Jam Records co-founder was accused by former model Keri Claussen Khalighi of sexual assaulting her when she was 17.

Though Khalighi says Simmons forced her to perform oral sex on him while filmmaker Brett Ratner — who himself has been accused by numerous women of sexual assault — watched, the music mogul has maintained that their encounter was “completely consensual.” Khalighi says Simmons had since apologized to her privately.

Here is part of Lumet’s piece from this morning, which was structured as a letter written directly to Simmons. This excerpt comes after Lumet details how the music mogul got her to his apartment by force and intimidation, and with the help of his driver.

There was penetration. At one point you were only semi-erect and appeared frustrated. Angry? I remember being afraid that you would deem that my fault and become violent. I did not know if you were angry, but I was afraid that you were.

I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating. I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult. I wanted to stay as contained as I could.

You told me to turn over on my stomach. You said something about a part of my body. You did not ejaculate inside me.

When it was over, I got my clothes and quickly went down in the elevator by myself.  You didn’t try to stop me.

In response, the founder of the Phat Farm clothing line issued the following 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.

Simmons is not currently involved in record label Def Jam or clothing company Phat Farm. His principal businesses these days include All Def Digital, Def Pictures and Tantris.

Read Lumet’s full blog post here.