Russell Simmons has been accused of rape by four women in incidents spanning from 1983 to 1996 in New York Times and Los Angeles Times reports both published Wednesday (Dec. 13).
As well, another five women described episodes of sexual misconduct with the Def Jam co-founder as recently as 2016. Simmons issued statements to both newspapers denying the women’s accounts.
“I have accepted that I can and should get dirt on my sleeves if it means witnessing the birth of a new consciousness about women. What I will not accept is responsibility for what I have not done,” read Simmons’ statement to the New York Times. “I have conducted my life with a message of peace and love. Although I have been candid about how I have lived in books and interviews detailing my flaws, I will relentlessly fight against any untruthful character assassination that paints me as a man of violence.”
The alleged attacks largely follow a similar pattern, where Simmons used his power and influence as one of music’s top executives to assert his dominance over women to lure them into compromised situations where he would sexually assault them. Many of the alleged victims have now left the music industry — either as artists or executives — due largely to their negative experiences with Simmons, they said.
The latest accusations follow sexual assault claims against Simmons that came last month from former fashion model Keri Claussen Khalighi and screenwriter Jenny Lumet. The former label head-turned-wellness impresario denied those claims as well and responded to them — as he did many of the new accounts — saying he remembered the events differently. After those initial accusations surfaced, Simmons announced he was stepping away from his various businesses.
In the Los Angeles Times report, Sherri Hines of the all-female hip-hop group Mercedes Ladies says Simmons raped her in his office around 1983 when she was 17 or 18, after inviting her up one night when the two ran into each other at a club.
Toni Sallie, a former music journalist for the trade magazine Black Radio Exclusive, told the New York Times she met Simmons while on assignment and the two dated casually in 1987. The next year, she said, Simmons invited her to his Manhattan apartment for a party he said he was hosting for his girlfriend. But when Sallie arrived, Simmons was the only one there. After a showing her around, she said, he brought her into his bedroom and raped her. About a year later, Sallie was working for Warner Bros. Records and she said she had to physically fight off Simmons advances one night at a hotel during a music conference in South Florida.
In late 1990 or early 1991, Tina Baker was a singer being managed by Simmons. One night after they ran into each other a club, she said he invited her back his apartment to discuss her career. Once she was there, she said, he raped her. Baker’s professional career with Simmons continued after that and she recounted another episode where he exposed himself to her and moved towards her, but she escaped. Baker said she was unable to effectively extricate herself from her contract with Simmons and her musical career became stagnate as a consequence.
Former Def Jam A&R executive Drew Dixon told the New York Times that Simmons made relentless, aggressive sexual advances towards her when she joined the company in 1992. At work, he would close the door to her office and expose himself. But his favor was also key to her creating a successful career and she said she fended him off, while hoping she could lock in a hit record that would help establish her name. It came in 1995 when she executive produced a soundtrack for the music documentary The Show, featuring Tupac and A Tribe Called Quest, but while out celebrating the album’s platinum success she said she let her guard down and entered Simmons’ apartment. He pushed himself on her and she blacked out as he raped her, she said, even though she hadn’t been drinking that night.
Soon after, Dixon resigned from Def Jam and started at Arista Records. When L.A. Reid joined the label in 2000, she said he began sexualizing her as well and would turn cold when she denied his advances.
Between the New York Times and Los Angeles Times’ reporting, five more women have alleged sexual misconduct from Simmons that ranges from attempting to force one to perform oral sex on him in 1996 to using vulgar language during a 2016 business meeting with actress Amanda Seales to ask if they had ever had sex.
“These new stories range from the patently untrue to frivolous and hurtful claims,” Simmons told the Los Angeles Times. “I want to restate categorically what I have said previously: I have never been violent or abusive to any women in any way at any time in my entire life.”
Many of the alleged victims said they felt moved to come forward with their stories after Simmons denied any misconduct with Khalighi and Lumet.
To each of the incidents above, Simmons denies any misconduct through his lawyer, Brad D. Rose, with statements rebuking every claim. Those can be read — along with the alleged victims’ full stories — in the New York Times report here and the Los Angeles Times report here.
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