Russell Simmons, the founder of Def Jam Records, announced Thursday that “I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded” to concentrate on his own personal growth following a screenwriter’s accusation that he maneuvered her into an unwanted sexual encounter in New York in 1991.
Screenwriter Jenny Lumet — the daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet and granddaughter of the late singer and civil rights activist Lena Horne — writes in a letter to Simmons published Thursday in the Hollywood Reporter that the prolific music producer offered her a ride home following a social gathering but instead ordered the driver to go to his New York apartment and had sex with her.
“I couldn’t open the doors. I couldn’t open the windows. The car was moving. The driver did not stop. He did not take me to 19th Street. He took me to your apartment,” Lumet wrote.
“I felt dread and disorientation. I wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go home. I didn’t recognize the man next to me. I didn’t know if the situation would turn violent. I remember thinking that I must be crazy; I remember hoping that the Russell I knew would return any moment.”
Once at the building where Simmons lived, “I was still hoping the Russell I knew would reappear, as I could not recognize the man moving me deeper into the apartment” wrote Lumet.
“You moved me into a bedroom. I said ‘Wait.’ You said nothing.
“I made the trade in my mind. I thought ‘just keep him calm and you’ll get home. Maybe another person would have thought differently, or not made the trade.
“It was dark, but not pitch dark. You closed the door.
“At that point, I simply did what I was told.”
The 60-year-old Simmons responded in a statement released by a Los Angeles public relations agency:
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… As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.