Def Jam co-founder, who recently stepped down from his companies, denies allegations as five other women accuse him of sexual misconduct
Russell Simmons, the powerful hip-hop mogul who founded Def Jam Recordings, has been accused of rape by four women and sexual assault or harassment by five other women in incidents that took place between 1983 and 2016.
The allegations were published Wednesday in separate reports by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and come just two weeks after Simmons stepped down from his companies in the wake of two other sexual assault allegations.
“I vehemently deny all these allegations,” Simmons said in a statement to the New York Times. “These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual.”
In a statement to the LA Times, Simmons said: “These new stories range from the patently untrue to frivolous and hurtful claims. I want to restate categorically what I have said previously: I have never been violent or abusive to any women in any way at any time in my entire life.”
Simmons is just the latest powerful man in entertainment to be accused of sexual assault or harassment in the months since the New York Times and the New Yorker published reports detailing decades of serial sexual harassment and assault by Harvey Weinstein. (Weinstein has denied allegations of sexual assault.)
While dozens of men in lofty positions in Hollywood, journalism, publishing and the arts have been fired or forced to resign in recent weeks, the music industry has remained largely untouched by the current moment of reckoning. The new reports illustrate the potential for abuse created by unequal power dynamics in a business where Simmons could make or break careers.
The New York Times interviewed four women, all of whom spoke on the record. Tina Baker, a performer who worked as a backup singer for Madonna and Bruce Springsteen as well as a solo artist recording under the name Tina B, said Simmons raped her at his apartment in late 1990 or early 1991.
Simmons was Baker’s manager, and she told the New York Times that her career was damaged by the alleged rape and her subsequent attempts to separate herself from him professionally.
Toni Sallie, a music journalist, alleged that Simmons raped her at his apartment in 1988 and physically assaulted her at a music conference about a year later. Drew Dixon, a former music executive at Def Jam and other labels, said that Simmons regularly sexually harassed her while she worked for him in the 1990s and raped her in 1995.
The three alleged rapes were said to have occurred during Simmons’ time at Def Jam, which he sold in 1996. The New York Times report also includes allegations from Christina Moore, who met Simmons at Art Basel in Miami in 2014. Moore said that Simmons led her and a friend to his room at the Soho Beach House when they were looking for the bar, then pushed her against a column and groped her.
“The current allegations sent to me by the New York Times range from the patently untrue to the frivolous and hurtful,” Simmons said in his statement. “I have already apologized for the instances of thoughtlessness in my consensual relations … I will relentlessly fight against any untruthful character assassination that paints me as a man of violence.”
The LA Times report includes interviews with five women whose allegations range from workplace harassment to rape.
Sherri Hines, who performed with the hip hop group Mercedes Ladies under the mane Sheri Sher, alleged that Simmons raped her in 1983. Lisa Kirk alleged that Simmons attempted to sexually assault her in the women’s bathroom of a nightclub around 1988. Erin Beattie, a massage therapist, alleged that Simmons exposed himself to her and asked her to touch his penis during a massage in 2005. The actor Natashia Williams-Blach alleged that Simmons attempted to force her to perform oral sex on him in 1996, when she was 18. And the comedian Amanda Seales alleged that Simmons made sexually inappropriate remarks during a business meeting at his offices in September 2016.
The new reports follow two allegations against Simmons in November. The model Keri Claussen Khalighi alleged in the Los Angeles Times that Simmons and the Hollywood producer Brett Ratner had sexually assaulted her in 1991, when she was 17.
Simmons denied the accusation, saying: “Everything that occurred between Keri and me occurred with her full consent and participation.”
Also in November, the screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused Simmons of coercing her into sex around 1991.
Simmons offered a qualified apology and acknowledgment of wrongdoing in response to Lumet’s allegations, which were published in a column in Variety, saying: “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 apologize.”
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