Russell Simmons steps down from companies following sexual assault allegation

Russell Simmons is stepping down from his companies after being accused of sexual assault by the writer Jenny Lumet. In a guest column in the Hollywood Reporter, Lumet accuses the Def Jam co-founder of forcing her to have sex in 1991. In a statement, Simmons said he had a different recollection of their encounter, but said that Lumet’s “feelings of fear and intimidation are real.” He apologized to Lumet, who is the daughter of director Sidney Lumet and the screenwriter behind “Rachel Getting Married.”

“There is so much guilt, and so much shame,” Lumet wrote in her column. “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.”

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LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Russell Simmons attends Fonkoze's 'Hot Night In Haiti' Los Angeles Event on November 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Russell Simmons and Hana Nitsche attends the Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles 2017 Wish Gala at Hollywood Palladium on November 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Shining Star award recipient Usher Raymond IV (L) and music producer Russell Simmons at the 2017 Make a Wish Gala on November 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Make A Wish)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Music producer Russell Simmons (R) at the 2017 Make a Wish Gala on November 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Make A Wish)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27: Russell Simmons (L) attends Casamigos Halloween Party on October 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Casamigos Tequila)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: Russell Simmons seen on October 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Team GT/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Russell Simmons Attends The RushCard's Keep the Peace Initiative Day Of Peace on October 19, 2017 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 12: Russell Simmons attends The Imagine Ball at The Peppermint Club on October 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 06: Russell Simmons (C) attends his 60th Birthday Party at his Tantris Yoga Center on October 6, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for Tantris LLC)
SANTA MONICA, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Russell Simmons attends the 27th Annual EMA Awards - Show at Barker Hangar on September 23, 2017 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Model Kennedy Summers (L) and entrepreneur-producer Russell Simmons arrive at the 27th Annual EMA Awards at Barker Hangar on September 23, 2017 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Russell Simmons poses backstage during the Meadows Music and Arts Festival - Day 3 at Citi Field on September 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Russell Simmons arrives for Netflix presents Russell Simmons' 'Def Comedy Jam 25' Special Event at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 10, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 17: (L-R) Russell Simmons and Lin-Manuel Miranda attend a Dinner Hosted By Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation In Honor Of Lin-Manuel Miranda at Private Residence on August 17, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 01: Russell Simmons speaks to a crowd of students at an event benefiting Community Coalition sponsored by Russell Simmons and RushCard at USC on August 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 12: Cast Member Bresha Webb and Russell Simmons attend NBC's MARLON 'Sip & Style' at Tantris on August 12, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Robin Marshall/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 25: Russell Simmons arrives for the premiere of The Film Collaborative's 'Romeo Is Bleeding' at The Montalban Theater on July 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 17: (L - R) Russell Simmons, Jason Zeldes, Donte Clark, and Michael Klein attend Build to discuss the documentary 'Romeo Is Bleeding' at Build Studio on July 17, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/WireImage)
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For his part, Simmons said, “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.”

In addition to his music work, Simmons is a successful film and television producer and the founder of such clothing fashion lines as Phat Farm and Tantris. This isn’t the first time he has been accused of harassment or assault. Earlier this month, model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons of forcing her to have sex. She said that the businessman worked in conjunction with director Brett Ratner to lure her to his apartment. Another woman, Tanya Reid, also accused Simmons of pressuring her to perform oral sex on Ratner. Both men deny the allegations.

Simmons did say that the culture is going through “a time of great transition,” and said he did not want to be a distraction from the work of his companies. He also plans to convert a studio he founded for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing.

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

Simmons is the latest high profile figure to become engulfed in a sexual harassment or assault scandal. In recent weeks, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and John Lasseter have all been dogged by claims of sexual misdeeds or crimes.

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High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct
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High-profile men accused of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct

Movie producer Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexually assaulting or harassing dozens of women, including a number of well-known celebrities, over the past several decades.

(REUTERS/Gus Ruelas)

Matt Lauer was fired from 'Today' after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct that allegedly included giving a co-worker a sex toy and dropping his pants in front of a female employee in his office.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Actor Jeffrey Tambor has been accused of sexual assault by two women from the Amazon series, "Transparent."  

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Sen. Al Franken is accused of kissing a groping a woman without her consent during a United Service Organizations (USO) tour in 2006.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Eleven women have come forward accusing President Donald Trump of unwanted touching or kissing. Trump has called the sexual harassment claims 'fake news.'

(Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Rep. Ruben Kihuen, (D) Nevada, was accused of making repeated, unwanted propositions for dates and sex to a woman that once worked on his campaign.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Hundreds of women accused longtime Hollywood writer and director James Toback of sexual harassment.

(TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Comedian Louis C.K. has been accused of forcing women to watch him masturbate, according to the New York Times.

(Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)

Director Bret Ratner has been accused of sexual harassment by several women, including actresses Olivia Munn and Natasha Henstridge.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him when he was 14 years old.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Roger Ailes, the former president of Fox News Channel, was accused of sexually harassing former anchor Gretchen Carlson and several other women from the network.

(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Several women accused TV host Charlie Rose of sexual misconduct, including groping and lewd phone calls.

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Bill Cosby has faced sexual assault allegations from about 60 women, including several women who claim he drugged them.

(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images)

Mark Schwahn, the former "One Tree Hill" showrunner, was accused of sexual harassment by a large number of the show's cast and crew.

(Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)

Roy Moore faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with underaged girls.

(REUTERS/Marvin Gentry)

Bill Clinton faced numerous allegations of sexual assault and misconduct while he was president of the United States, with accusers including Juanita Broaddrick, who accused him of rape, Kathleen Willey who said he groped her and Paula Jones who said he exposed himself to her without consent.

(Photo by Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Actor Casey Affleck settled lawsuits out of court wth two women who accused him of sexual harassment.  

(Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Film Independent)

Bill O'Reilly has reportedly made numerous settlements with women who accused him of sexual harassment.

(Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic congressman was sentenced to 21 months in prison in September 2017 after pleading guilty to sexting a teenage girl.

(TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Veteran journalist Mark Halperin has been accused of sexually harassing women while he worked at ABC News.

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Singer R. Kelly is accused of holding women against their will in houses in Illinois and Georgia in a reported 'sex cult.'

(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Former Fox Host Eric Bolling was accused of sending unsolicited lewd text messages to female colleagues.

(Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Director Roman Polanski fled the US after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Several other women have also come forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

Chef John Besh stepped down from the company he founded after female employees reported facing sexual harassment there. 

(Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images for NYCWFF)

Photographer Terry Richardson was labeled the 'Harvey Weinstein of Fashion' by the Sunday Times amid widespread accusations of sexual harassment by models.

(Photo by Eugene Gologursky/WireImage)

Singer Kesha accused Lukasz Gottwald aka Dr. Luke of drugging and sexually assaulting her on multiple occasions.

(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Former champion boxer Mike Tyson was convicted of raping a Miss Black America contestant in 1992. 

(REUTERS/Michael Clevenger/POOL)

Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by dozens of his former patients and athletes.

(JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Music mogul L.A. Reid left his position as Epic Records CEO/Chairman in 2017 amid harassment claims by a female assistant.

(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Amazon Studios chief Roy Price resigned following reports that he harassed a producer and ignored an actress' allegation of sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein.

(Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)

Several women have accused former President George H.W. Bush of groping them during photo ops.

(REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

Chris Savino (right), creator of  'The Loud House' was suspended by Nickelodeon after being accused of making unwanted advances toward multiple women.

(Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD)

Actor Steven Seagal was accused of sexual misconduct by Inside Edition's chief investigative correspondent Lisa Guerrero.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images,)

Michael Oreskes, senior vice president of news and editorial director of National Public Radio, was accused of inappropriate conduct with two women in 1990s.

(REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad)

Dustin Hoffman was accused of sexually harassing a production assistant when he was 48 and she was a high school senior.

(REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

Jeremy Piven was accused by actress Ariane Bellamar of groping her on two separate occasions. Piven 'unequivocally' denied the allegations.

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Ben Affleck apologized for acting 'inappropriately' towards Hilarie Burton during an appearance on MTV's "Total Request Live" in 2003.

(REUTER/Dylan Martinez

Andy Dick was accused of sexual harassment and misconduct on set, including groping people’s genitals, unwanted kissing/licking and sexual propositions.

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

Four women, including several that were also fellow Scientologists, have accused actor Danny Masterson of sexual assault, according to HuffPost.

 (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Actor Ed Westwick was accused by actress Kristina Cohen of raping her in his home.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

David Guillod, producer of 'Atomic Blonde,' is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting several woman.

(Photo by Jennifer Lourie/Getty Images)

Andrew Kreisberg, the showrunner for "Supergirl," was suspended in November 2017 amid numerous sexual harassment allegations by members of his staff.

(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Actor Tom Sizemore was reportedly told to leave a film set in 2003 after an 11-year-old actress told her mother that he had touched her genitals.

(REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

Steve Jurvetson left his own venture capital firm after allegations of sexual harassment

(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

A former model accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him 36 years ago.

(Photo by Tara Ziemba/FilmMagic)

Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo accused former FIFA president Sepp Blatter of sexually assaulted her at an award ceremony in 2013.

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

A former writer for 'Mad Men' said the show's creator Matthew Weiner told her that she owed it to him to let him see her naked.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Ron Jeremy has been accused of sexually assaulting more than a dozen women and the allegations span more than 30 years.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Multiple women accused producer Adam Fields of touching them inappropriately and sexually propositioning them.

(Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has been accused of unwanted sexual advances by former staffers.

(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, was accused of crossing the line with employees, including unwanted hugs.

(Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

Singer Nick Carter was accused of rape by a former member of the all-girl teen band Dream, Melissa Schuman.

(Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)

A singer accused billionaire Richard Branson of sexual assault during an event as his Necker Island in the Caribbean. Branson says he has no recollection of the matter.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Talent agent Adam Venit is accused of grabbing actor Terry Crews' genitals.

(Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images)

Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez), Marilyn Manson former longtime bassist, was accused of rape by singer Jessicka Addams.

(Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage for Bragman Nyman Cafarelli)

Lockhart Steele, Vox Media's editorial director was fired after a former employee accused him of sexual harassment.

(Photo by Hal Horowitz/WireImage for Haute Magazine)

Producer Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein's brother, has also been accused of sexual harassment. 

(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)

Jesse Lacey of  the band, Brand New, was accused of sexual misconduct, including soliciting nude photos from a teen girl in the past.

(Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Redferns)

Senior Correspondent for E! News Ken Baker California was accused of sexual harassment by two women.

(Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

American film director Oliver Stone was accused of groping model and actress Carrie Stevens in the 1990s.

(Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)

Reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended by the New York Times after several women accused him of acting inappropriately when they were young journalists.

(Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Veteran radio host Garrison Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio following claim of improper behavior.

(Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)

CNN producer Teddy Davis was fired after multiple accusations of harassment.

(Photo via Twitter)

Producer Russell Simmons stepped down from his companies following sexual assault and harassment accusations from two women.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Longtime conductor James Levine was suspended by New York's Metropolitan Opera after sexual abuse claims.

(Photo by Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images)

Dylan Howard, editor in chief of the National Enquirer, was accused of sexual misconduct by several former employees, including forcing them to watch porn and openly discussing his sexual partners.

(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

"X-Men" director Bryan Singer was accused of raping a 17-year-old boy on a yacht in a lawsuit filed in December.

(REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

Harold Ford, Jr.

(Munshi Ahmed/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Chef Mario Batali has been accused by multiple women of "inappropriate touching in a pattern of behavior that spans at least two decades."

(Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley's show was suspended amid misconduct allegations made against him.

(REUTERS/Fred Prouser)

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Here’s Simmons’ full statement.

“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.”

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