BY TRONE DOWD
Southeast Queens-born media mogul Russell Simmons is the latest celebrity to be caught up in accusations of sexual misconduct.
The 60-year-old Hollis native, Def Jam founder and CEO of Rush Communications stepped down from his various posts on Thursday morning amidst new allegations published by The Hollywood Reporter. According to the report, screenwriter Jenny Lumet alleges that during a cab ride together in 1991, Simmons told her driver to go to his address instead of hers. He then led her to his apartment, where he allegedly forced himself onto her, groped and raped her.
The allegations come just a week after a similar story was reported by the Los Angeles Times. In that account, supermodel Keri Claussen Khalighi said that she was sexually assaulted by Simmons in 1991, while filmmaker Brett Ratner looked on. Simmons vehemently denied that the incident took place. This week however, in light of the Lumet accusation, he took a different stance.
“I have been informed with great anguish of Jenny Lumet’s recollection about our night together in 1991,” Simmons said in response to the story. “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.”
Simmons said that he thought it was best he step aside from the spotlight and allow for “a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward” to take over where he left off.
Simmons is not the only Queens-born celebrity to face allegations of sexual assault. Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein—whose decades of alleged sexual abuse and assault kicked off a number of recent incidents in which high-profile celebrities and elected officials have been accused of sexual misconduct—was a native of Flushing and graduated from John Bowne High School.