Watch CBS News

Russell Simmons Steps Down After Sexual Assault Allegation

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/CNN) -- Russell Simmons is stepping down from his companies in the wake of an accusation of harassment and sexual assault.

Simmons, the founder of hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings and chief executive officer of Rush Communications, released a statement on Thursday after screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused him of forcing her to have sex with him in 1991. She detailed the encounter in a guest column published by The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reported, Simmons apologized, but denied the allegations.

"I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet's recollection about our night together in 1991," Simmons said in a statement. "I know Jenny and her family and have seen her several times over the years since the evening she described. While her memory of that evening is very different from mine, it is now clear to me that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real. While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades and I sincerely and humbly apologize."

The statement continued: "This is a time of great transition. The voices of the voiceless, those who have been hurt or shamed, deserve and need to be heard. As the corridors of power inevitably make way for a new generation, I don't want to be a distraction so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded. The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward. I will convert the studio for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing. As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening."

Six women accused Hollywood director and producer Brett Ratner of sexual misconduct, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times published Nov. 1. The alleged incidents occurred in private homes, at industry events and on movie sets. Among the accusers was actress Natasha Henstridge, who told the Times that Ratner "forced her to perform oral sex."

Ratner, 48, denied the allegations through his attorney, calling them "outrageous" and "derogatory."

On Nov. 19, the newspaper published another report that detailed allegations of sexual misconduct made against Ratner and Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings. A woman quoted in the story said Ratner and Simmons, 60, were "in it together."

Ratner, who is known for directing the "Rush Hour" film series and "X-Men: The Last Stand," denied the allegations.

So did Simmons, who added that "abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.