Russell Simmons, a prolific music and TV producer and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, was accused of sexual assault and harassment by model Keri Claussen Khalighi in a Nov. 19 article in the Los Angeles Times. Simmons then denied the incident in a letter published Nov. 22 by The Hollywood Reporter. The letter prompted Jenny Lumet, an award-winning screenwriter (Rachel Getting Married, The Mummy), the daughter of filmmaker Sidney Lumet, and granddaughter of singer/activist Lena Horne, to pen a response detailing her own experience with Simmons.
On Nov. 22, 2017, Russell Simmons wrote:
“I have never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life. I would never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone.”
I met you around 1987, through Rick Rubin, who has always been kind to me. Rick knew my sister through N.Y.U. and asked me, at the upstairs bar in a nightclub called the Palladium, to be in a movie you were producing that Rick was directing, starring RUN DMC. It was, frankly, a lousy movie and I was terrible in it.
Over the next three or four years, I would see you out and about, at a nightclub called Nell’s, mostly. I don’t recall you and I ever just going out to dinner, or having a one-to-one experience; we were always in groups, and we had many, many mutual friends. You were charming and funny and charismatic and self-deprecating. Not being in the music business made it possible for me to relax around you. And you were a fan of my grandmother, respected her, and told me so. You seemed sincere.
You pursued me, lightly, on and off, over a course of years, saying you had a thing for a “little yellow girl” (me). I rebuffed. It wasn’t deep, as far as I knew. It was never a big deal. You had, I assumed, many women in your orbit.
Once you sent me 250 balloons with the note “Please baby, please baby, baby, baby, baby” after a character in a Spike Lee movie. It was light, fun, and flattering. We continued to socialize in the same places. We continued to have a large group of mutual friends.
One night circa 1991, when I was around 24, I was at a restaurant called Indochine. I had worked there when I was 17, as the coat check girl, and I enjoyed returning. I still knew some of the staff at this point, and felt quite comfortable there. I remember I was wearing one of the Azzedine Alaia tops that were everywhere that year. And hoop earrings. I think it was cool enough for a jacket. Because I remember being glad I had a jacket by the end of that night.
You had a car and a driver that evening. Sometime later, you offered me a ride to my home. I said, sure. During the making of the RUN DMC movie, I had been in vans with you and other crew members. I don’t recall having accepted a ride home alone with you before that night.
At no time that night did I say: “Russell, I will go home with you”. Or, “Come home with me.” Or “I will have sex with you.” Or “I have the desire to have sex with you.”
I believe it was an SUV, because I recall having to step up into the car. I don’t know about makes or models. I think the driver was already in the car.
I got into the car with you. The driver began to drive. I assumed you knew where I lived, because you had sent me 250 balloons, but I gave the driver my address on 19th Street and 2nd Avenue.
You said to the driver: “No.”
I didn’t understand, so I said: “Russell?”
I said, again, to the driver: “19th Street.”
Again you said to the driver: “No. ”
Then, the car doors locked. It was loud. The noise made me jump.
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