If there’s anything worse than issuing an apology that denies responsibility for a victim’s assault, it’s doing so while claiming you’ve been “a long-time social activist.” Unfortunately for Russell Simmons, this is not a tactic that makes the perpetrator any more likable or less culpable. In light of recent accusations from model Keri Claussen Khalighi reported by the L.A. Times in mid-November and an open letter from screenwriter Jenny Lumet, published by THR yesterday, Def Jam Recordings co-founder and producer Russell Simmons has stepped down from his business roles.
According to an official statement, Simmons will be taking a professional hiatus and make way for others who are “moving the culture of consciousness forward.” He writes:
I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991. 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.
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.
Simmons’ holdings include Rush Communications, yoga studio Tantris, energy drink Celsius and production company Def Pictures. Adding to the list of vanishing Simmons properties, JCPenney discontinued his menswear clothing line, “Argyleculture,” though products are still available on Amazon and eBay. Simmons has also been removed from HBO’s All Def Comedy. An HBO spokesperson told CNN, “HBO will be airing All Def Comedy as planned. However, Russell Simmons will not appear in the new series and we will be removing his name from the show moving forward.”
Below, you can read Russell’s statement—issued in the wake of Khaligi’s accusations, in which the actress said she was in the shower and “Simmons walked up behind her … and briefly penetrated her without her consent”—as well as actress Olivia Munn’s response. Munn condemned Simmons for saying that Khaligi’s memories were “different,” implying they were somehow incorrect, fraudulent, lesser. Read Shane Ryan’s piece on the meaningless theater of public apologies here.