It’s been a month since the first allegations against 60-year-old hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons first broke. But in the weeks since the Def Jam Recordings co-founder has been accused of sexual misconduct and rape by nearly a dozen women, with four more coming forward just this week.
The once-towering figure in rap, who over the years expanded his businesses to include Rush Communications, UniRish Financial Services, the Phat Farm, Baby Phat and Argylecutlure clothing lines and the Tantris yoga studios among dozens of other for-profit businesses and several non-profit ones, has stepped away from empire in the wake of the headlines.
And, like a number of other prominent men in the business, political, entertainment and sports world, Simmons has been called out as part of the #MeToo social media campaign as an growing list of women have come forward to claim that he sexually abused or assaulted them. Simmons has denied the allegations, which this week grew to include four women who said he raped them.
A timeline of the allegations against Simmons:
Nov. 19: Weeks after Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor Terry Crews comes forward to claim an alleged assault at the hands of WME agent Adam Venit — who he claims grabbed his crotch on a red carpet event — Crews tweets that Simmons asked him to give Venit “a pass.”
Message Russell Simmons sent to me regarding my sexual assault case against Adam Venit of @WME:
— terrycrews (@terrycrews) November 19, 2017
That same day, the Los Angeles Times reports that Simmons and director Brett Ratner are accused of teaming up to allegedly sexually harass and assault women. One of the alleged victims, Keri Claussen Khalighi, claimed that when she was a 17-year-old fashion model she met then up-and-coming video director and Simmons protege Ratner at a casting call. After dinner one night in 1991, she said the pair took her back to Simmons’ apartment, ostensibly to show her a music video they had been working on, only to have Simmons make aggressive sexual advances on her and tear off her clothes.
“I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” she told the newspaper. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.” Khalighi added that after Simmons tried to force her to have intercourse she “fought… wildly,” at which point the music mogul coerced her to perform oral sex, then briefly penetrating her without consent as she was taking a shower. Simmons strongly disputed Khalighi’s account in a statement claiming, “Everything that occurred between Keri and me occurred with her full consent and participation.”
Khalighi said that she encountered Simmons last year at an event where he delivered a “touching, remorseful apology” for his behavior. In a statement to the Times, Simmons said Khalighi’s claim “does a disservice to those who have been true victims of sexual harassment.” In statements obtained by the Times and the Hollywood Reporter Simmons also said, “Let me be crystal clear and very direct. Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being,” adding “I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being.” Ratner has also disputed the allegations of sexual misconduct against him by at least 10 women.
Nov. 22: Simmons releases a statement to the Hollywood Reporter in reaction to Khalighi’s claims, alluding to his “longtime loathing of any form of violence and abuse,” saying that his relations with the model were consensual and that he has three witnesses and signed statements backing him up. “Humanity is going through a powerful and wrenching shift of consciousness that I believe will ultimately lead to a mass awakening in all humankind,” he wrote.
“Like all lasting change, this transition is filled with painful disruption and confrontation against an entrenched system. It may sound odd to some that I am encouraged about this time in our history, but I am. The daily news detailing the growing number of experiences of women being victimized are being brought to the light. I do not doubt that the vast majority of the allegations these brave survivors are sharing are true and dignified. I see their stories giving a voice to the voiceless, which has been the central theme of my life’s journey. I also know from recent painful personal experience that some recollections can be cast in a light away from the actual facts. My longtime loathing of any form of violence and abuse has been woven into all of my personal interactions, as most who know me will attest.”
Simmons added that in their meetings since the incident Khalighi never accused him or confronted him about that night and, in fact, “insisted I was not violent,” suggesting that the model was “ashamed” when her boyfriend and others “found out about our long weekend together.” He apologized for “the embarrassment she recounted to me,” adding “I have made choices that have offended some of the women in my life. It’s not cool to be a playboy and a new consciousness understands this. Now, as I hear these voices, I do as well. Though never abusive in any way, my remarks were often cavalier and thoughtless, and for this I am humbled. I am a work in progress. I am human. The fact that I come from the world of music or a specific place or generation justifies nothing.” Simmons said he would “never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone. For any women from my past who I may have offended, I sincerely apologize. I am still evolving.”
Nov. 30: A week after Simmons expressed support for the #MeToo movement in denying Khalighi’s allegations, writer Jenny Lumet pens a guest column for the Reporter entitled “Russell Simmons Sexually Violated Me.” In it, the Rachel Getting Married writer detailed Simmons’ years-long on and off pursuit of her that culminated in 1991 when the then-24 year-old writer when she accepted a ride home from him and was startled when he allegedly locked the doors of an SUV and would not let her out, then took her to his apartment where she said he raped her.
“I felt dread and disorientation. I wanted to go home. I said I wanted to go home,” she wrote. “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… There is so much guilt, and so much shame. There is an excruciating internal reckoning. As a woman of color, I cannot express how wrenching it is to write this about a successful man of color. Again, shame about who I was years ago, choices made years ago. In this very moment, I feel a pang to protect your daughters. I don’t think you are inclined to protect mine.”
The same day, Simmons announced that he was stepping down from his various businesses to “commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all listening,” noting that Lumet’s memory of that evening “is very different from mine” while acknowledging that her “feelings of fear and intimidation are real.” Simmons again denied ever having acted in a violent manner while apologizing for being “thoughtless and insensitive” in some of his relationships over the decades.
The same day, HBO announces that it is taking Simmons’s name off the All Def Comedy series and says he will not appear on the show going forward.
Dec. 13: The New York Times and Los Angeles Times report that four women have accused Simmons of rape in incidents spanning from 1983 to 1996, with five other women describing episodes of sexual misconduct, some as recently as 2016. The alleged incidents followed a similar pattern described in the earlier encounters, in which Simmons reportedly used his power and influence to assert his dominance over women and lure them into compromised situations where he sexually assaulted them.
The accusers included Sherri Hines of the all-female hip-hop group Mercedes Ladies, who said Simmons raped her in his office in 1983 when she was 17, former music journalist Toni Sallie, who said she casually dated Simmons after meeting him on assignment in 1987. Sallie described Simmons inviting her to a purported party in his apartment, where she said he raped her; a year later she said she had to physically fight off his advances at a hotel room during a music conference in Florida.
“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 about the latest accusations.. “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.”
In addition, between the two newspaper’s reports, five other women alleged sexual misconduct ranging from attempts to force oral sex to using vulgar language during a 2016 business meeting with actress Amanda Seales to ask if they’d ever had sex. Simmons told the L.A. Times the new allegations range from “patently untrue to frivolous and hurtful claims,” reiterating that he has never been violent or abusive to any women “at any time in my entire life.”
Dec. 14: NYPD begins an investigation into the claims. The police, who are also involved in the investigation of sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, are interviewing the women who came forward.
“The NYPD has received information regarding allegations involving Russell Simmons in the NYC area and our detectives are in the process of reviewing that information,” Sgt. Brendan Ryan told The Hollywood Reporter.
Simmons also deleted his Twitter account in the midst of the allegations, but kept his Instagram handle active. He took to the photo-sharing app to release a statement defending himself, and subsequently launching his own hashtag, #NotMe.
“Today, I begin to properly defend myself. I will prove without any doubt that I am innocent of all rape charges,” he wrote.
“My intention is not to diminish the #MeToo movement in anyway, but instead hold my accusers accountable. #NotMe Again, this is not a movement against or even in conjunction with #Metoo . It’s just a statement about my innocence,” he continued.
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! We’ll share information today… And tomorrow the case of Jenny Lumet. My intention is not to diminish the #MeToo movement in anyway, but instead hold my accusers accountable. #NotMe Again, this is not a movement against or even in conjunction with #Metoo . It’s just a statement about my innocence.