Russell Simmons Is The Latest To Be Accused In A Wave Of Sexual Misconduct
In recent weeks, celebrities, media moguls, and politicians have been accused of past sexual misconduct. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. are just some of the very public figures who have been named in these allegations. This weekend, Hip-Hop, fashion, and comedy mogul Russell Simmons is the latest to be accused.
Yesterday (November 18) The Los Angeles Times published an accusation against Simmons from model Keri Claussen Khalighi. She alleges that Simmons raped her during a weekend in 1991. Simmons and then—Def Jam Records video director Brett Ratner (who is one of the Hollywood creatives recently accused by at least seven women) took Khalighi (who was 17 years old at the time) to dinner in New York City. The evening followed with a screening of an upcoming music video at Simmons’ home.
Khalighi told The Times that Simmons began making aggressive sexual advances and forcibly removing her clothes. She said, “I looked over at Brett [Ratner] and said, ‘help me,’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face. In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.”
The Times reports, “Simmons, who was then about twice her age, tried to force [Keri Claussen Khalighi] to have intercourse…He eventually relented and coerced her to perform oral sex, she alleged.” The model said she fought the earlier advances, was quoted as saying, “I guess I just acquiesced” of the oral sex. She added that Ratner witnessed the affair, sitting and observing.
The Times report continues, “Feeling ‘disgusting,’ Khalighi said she went to take a shower. Minutes later, she alleged, Simmons walked up behind her in the shower and briefly penetrated her without her consent. She said she jerked away, then he left. ‘It hurt so much.'”
Keri Claussen Khalighi, who is currently 38 weeks pregnant, says she ran into Russell Simmons in 2016. She alleges the All Def Digital founder “poured his heart out in a really touching, remorseful apology,” and provided his phone number. “He knew what he had done; I knew what he had done,” she said to The Times. “That’s also why it was so vindicating, because it was there, acknowledged.” Simmons attorney contends the apology was related not to anything other than “infidelity.” The model called Simmons upon the recent allegations made against Ratner, claiming she was considering coming forward with her account. The L.A. Times confirms phone records that the two parties spoke for 27 minutes. Texts sent by Simmons followed and were documented by the paper—including “I’m really in very scary space if u have time,” suggesting that the two speak further.
Three people, including model Claudia Mason, confirmed to The Times that they were aware of Khalighi’s newly-public account. “It came up when we were discussing abuse of power from men who were in powerful positions,” Mason said in a statement to the newspaper. “I had heard stories about these two men — who I happen to know — but had not had any of this done to me. I was horrified, because she’s a good, dear person.”
Simmons and The Times refer to three witnesses on his behalf. One is named, former Rush assistant Anthony “Mac” McNair. The paper writes, “[McNair] said he saw Khalighi go to Simmons’ bedroom ‘on her own volition and without any coercion or undue influence,'” and mentions a next-day encounter, claiming he “did not notice ‘any visible signs of distress or that anything improper had occurred.'” Khalighi maintains that only Simmons and Ratner were present during the private moments of the 1991 weekend.
On November 9, Variety published a report of Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner investigated in 2001 for alleged sexual battery by an unnamed 29-year-old woman. Simmons responded to that report with the following statement: “This is an important and critical time for the empowerment of women and men who have been harassed. I have been a public figure for all of my adult life. And when you are in that arena over decades, you can find yourself in a position where you are vulnerable and susceptible to claims that are untrue.” Variety writes, “Police records indicate that the investigation began on November 5, 2001, and at the conclusion the case was presented to the D.A. for possible charges.” Simmons was not charged.
Less than 24 hours after the most recent report published, Russell Simmons released a statement. “As a long-time social activist, I have applauded the strength of the brave men and women who have spoken out over the past month and made their voices heard regarding sexual assault and harassment. I am a supporter of the #MeToo campaign and the victims who were previously terrified to stand up and speak out against sexual misconduct,” he began. “I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being.”
Simmons did recall the initial meeting. “I know Keri Claussen Khalighi and remember the weekend in 1991 that she has referenced. Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation. We spent time in my apartment over a period of two days and one night, as well as at some public places including Nell’s Nightclub. Much of the time we were in the presence of other acquaintances. I’m deeply saddened and truly shocked to learn of Keri’s assertions as to what happened over the course of that weekend. Let me be crystal clear and very direct. Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being. I have always spoken out regarding my life experiences, women’s issues and the need to bring a faster and more decisive shift in the collective consciousness that will help bring about true women’s equality. More than anything, I want my daughters to live in a more equal world and a world where they will not become victims of sexual harassment.”
In his 2007 book, Do You!: 12 Laws To Access The Power In You To Achieve Happiness And Success, Simmons wrote about meeting Brett Ratner in 1987. “He was willing to do anything to be of use…After he hung around a bit and figured out that I liked models, then he made it his business to take me to every model’s apartment he could find.” Ratner confirmed the basis of their friendship in an Introduction to Def Jam, Inc.: Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin, and the Extraordinary Story of the World’s Most Influential Hip-Hop Label. Simmons later referred to the director of Rush Hour and Horrible Bosses as “my son” in a Vanity Fair profile.
At present, seven women, including Olivia Munn, Ellen Page, and Natasha Henstridge have accused Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct. This month, Ratner’s relationship with Warner Bros. was severed as he is under internal investigation. The director’s offices were closed and vacated from the Warner lot.
Read: The Los Angeles Times‘ story “Russell Simmons And Brett Ratner Face New Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct” by Amy Kaufman, Daniel Miller, and Victoria Kim.