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More Women Come Forward To Accuse Russell Simmons Of Rape, Sexual Assault

Dec 14, 2017
Originally published on December 15, 2017 12:21 pm

Updated at 11:35 a.m. ET Friday

Russell Simmons, one of the biggest figures in the hip-hop industry, was publicly accused of rape Wednesday night by four women and of sexual misconduct by several other women. Multiple media outlets, including CNN and The New York Times, reported that the New York Police Department has opened an investigation into several of the allegations against Simmons.

The allegations follow those made by two other women last month. More than 10 women have now publicly accused Simmons of sexual harassment, assault or rape.

On Wednesday evening, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times separately published accounts of the new accusations against Simmons. The rapes and assaults are alleged to have taken place between the 1980s to 2014. Simmons released a statement last night saying he "vehemently denies all these allegations," adding that they shocked him to his core.

Simmons, 60, also responded to the new accusations through an Instagram post Thursday morning. The message, delivered in all-caps and signed by Simmons, reads:

"I have never had a sexual encounter that was not consensual or lawful. Ever."

Simmons followed that post with one of an image showing a hashtag — #NOTME — in response to the #MeToo hashtag that helped propel awareness and reports of sexual harassment this fall.

Commenting on that post, Simmons added:

"Today, I begin to properly defend myself. I will prove without any doubt that I am innocent of all rape charges. Today, I will focus on "The Original Sin" (Keri Claussen), the claim that created this insane pile on of my #MeToo. Stay tuned!"

Simmons said he would be sharing evidence refuting allegations on Thursday by model Keri Claussen Khalighi, as well as evidence on Friday regarding the case of Jenny Lumet, a writer who wrote an open letter to him saying he had sexually assaulted her in 1991. That accusation came on the heels of Khalighi's allegations.

As of noon ET Friday, however, Simmons had not yet made public any of the evidence he vowed to provide.

Through his Instagram account, Simmons added, "My intention is not to diminish the #MeToo movement in anyway, but instead hold the accusers accountable."

Two weeks ago, Simmons said he was "removing" himself from running his companies, saying that he had been "thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades."

In that November statement, Simmons said he would "commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening."

Simmons made his name through Def Jam Records and founded a sprawling empire that grew to encompass comedy, fashion and yoga.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

And now new allegations against another high-profile man. Last night, eight more women came forward to accuse hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of sexual assault and misconduct. This follows allegations from two other women which were made public last month. Simmons cofounded Def Jam Recordings, the label that's often credited with taking hip-hop to the mainstream. His empire expanded to include comedy, fashion and yoga. With us to talk about this is NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas. Hey there.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.

MCEVERS: So just tell us about these new allegations.

TSIOULCAS: Well, last night in very quick succession, two newspapers - The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times - published a total of eight new allegations against Russell Simmons. And all these incidents reportedly took place between the 1980s and 2014. And four of the women who have now come forward alleged that Simmons raped them. The other four women accuse Simmons of various kinds of sexual assault and misconduct.

MCEVERS: So where did this happen according to the women?

TSIOULCAS: Well, they say that some of the situations involved his businesses, and some were just social situations. Two of the women worked at Def Jam. Two more were employees of Tantris, which is a yoga studio Simmons owns in West Hollywood. One was an aspiring musician. And at the time, Russell Simmons was her manager. And another was a music journalist who says she had previously dated him before this encounter. One was a misuse that he had just booked, and another was a stranger who says she just met him at Art Basel in Miami Beach and that he tricked her into going with him to his hotel room. So it's really a mix.

MCEVERS: Has Simmons responded to these accusations?

TSIOULCAS: Last month, Kelly, he issued a seemingly very heartfelt statement. He said that it was time for him to step back and listen. And he actually stepped down from his businesses. But last night, he released another statement that seemed really almost combative. And he wrote in all-caps, I have never had a relationship that was not consensual or lawful ever. And at that point, he also alleged that some of the women may have had financial reasons to come forward.

This morning, Simmons followed up again with a new message in which he said he was innocent of all rape charges. And he said something that I found very interesting that seems almost completely counter to what he had said last month. He said today, I will focus on the, quote, "original sin," unquote. And that was referring to the first woman who came forward in November, a former model named Keri Claussen Khalighi. She claimed last month that Simmons sexually assaulted her when she was 17 years old. And today Simmons called all of these accusations which now come from 10 different women a, quote, "insane pile-on," unquote.

MCEVERS: What was it like to be a woman in this industry when somebody like Simmons was at his peak?

TSIOULCAS: Well, Russell Simmons, Kelly, was undoubtedly really one of a very small handful of men who could truly make or break careers in hip-hop and urban music. And I don't mean just for musicians. I mean for anyone who wanted to work in the industry at all. And as his businesses expanded, his reach became even bigger. He had all kinds of media holdings, including the very popular HBO series "Def Comedy Jam." And he had fashion labels as well as music. So Russell Simmons was a man who had built up enormous power and privilege. And it was a world that really had very little space for women at all and particularly women of color.

MCEVERS: NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas, thank you so much.

TSIOULCAS: Thanks for having me, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.