Russell Simmons Steps Down Following Sexual Assault Allegations

Simmons announced his decision on Thursday after screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused him of assault in 1991

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Russell Simmons Steps Down Following Sexual Assault Allegations

UPDATE: HBO has cut ties with Russell Simmons following sexual assault allegations against the music mogul. Simmons was set to bring back the show's Def Comedy Jam as All Def Comedy this week and while the show will air, Simmons will not be a part of it. 

"HBO will be airing All Def Comedy as planned," a spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. "However, Russell Simmons will not appear in the new series and we will be removing his name from the show moving forward. The series is a platform for promising and upcoming comedians and we do not want to deprive them of an opportunity to showcase their talents to a national audience. We have no other projects with Russell Simmons."

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Russell Simmons announced on Thursday that he is stepping down from leadership roles in business after writer Jenny Lumet accused him of sexual assault in 1991 in a column for The Hollywood Reporter.

Lumet – the screenwriter behind Rachel Getting Married and The Mummy – alleges in a detailed account that Simmons offered her a chauffeured ride home in 1991. When she got in the car, however, Simmons told his driver to lock the doors, took Lumet to his apartment and sexually assaulted her. "At no time that night did I say: 'Russell, I will go home with you,'" Lumet writes. "Or, 'Come home with me.' Or 'I will have sex with you.' Or 'I have the desire to have sex with you.'"

Simmons issued a statement shortly after The Hollywood Reporter published Lumet's article. "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," Simmons wrote. "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."

Lumet's account marks the third recent allegation of sexual assault or misconduct against Simmons. Earlier this month, The Los Angeles Times reported that Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons and director Brett Ratner – who stepped away from his Warner Brothers activities earlier this month after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct – of conspiring in an assault against her when she was 17. Tanya Reid also accused the two men of harassing her and pressuring her to have sex.

In a statement responding to that story, Simmons said, "I completely and unequivocally deny the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being."

Lumet suggested that reading Simmons' response was part of the reason she felt compelled her to relate her own account of his alleged assault. "I don't recall ever meeting any of the women who have spoken out against you, Russell," she writes. "But I can't leave those women twisting in the wind."

In response to Lumet's article, Simmons issued a statement on Thursday. "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," he wrote, before announcing his decision to step down from his companies. 

"The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward," he continued. " … As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening."