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Hip-Hop Mogul Russell Simmons Steps Down After 2nd Sexual Assault Accusation


The latest powerful man to be accused of sexual misconduct is the hip-hop mogul who introduced us to sounds like this.


LL COOL J: (Rapping) Lacking a melody but still complete, providing musical energy for the street. Lyrics are smooth for maximum effect. Drum track patterns...

MCEVERS: Russell Simmons, best known for co-founding Def Jam Recordings, which is known for releasing work by the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J. The allegations made public today against Simmons are serious, and in response he says he is stepping away from his many businesses.

NPR's Eric Deggans is here to talk about this. Hey, Eric.


MCEVERS: So let's first talk about the allegations against Simmons. They were made by Jenny Lumet, a successful actor and screenwriter. She wrote in The Hollywood Reporter that Simmons attacked her, that it happened years ago, but she never told anyone about it until recently, right?

DEGGANS: That's right. Lumet is a screenwriter and actress known for the film "Rachel Getting Married." She's Sidney Lumet's - the director's daughter and Lena Horne's granddaughter. She wrote a detailed column that was published as a letter to Simmons. And she outlined how they were friends years ago. He seemed to take a shine to her. He offered to give her a ride home one night in 1991, but instead of taking her home he had his driver go to his home. And despite her repeated requests to go home, she said that he eventually sexually assaulted her in his home.

Now, there was also an article in the Los Angeles Times on November 19 that featured allegations from a model named Keri Claussen Khalighi that Simmons sexually assaulted her in 1991 while Brett Ratner, a producer and director who's been accused of his own incidents of sexual assault and harassment - while he looked on. Now, in Lumet's column she writes how she expects to lose work over this and see her history examined closely and go through some tribulations by revealing this, but she felt compelled to speak out after hearing about the other allegations against Simmons.

MCEVERS: How has Simmons responded to all that?

DEGGANS: Well, he issued a statement in response to the November 19 story saying that everything that happened was completely consensual. Now, in response to Lumet's allegations he issued another statement saying that his memory of that night was different than hers but, quote, "I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades, and I sincerely and humbly apologize."

MCEVERS: And he says he's stepping away from his businesses. What does that mean?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, Simmons sold his stake in Def Jam Recordings decades ago, but he has a wide range of businesses from clothing lines to a yoga studio. He says he's going to step away from core businesses like this media company called All Def Digital, Def Pictures, the yoga studio and his philanthropic efforts. Now, on Friday HBO is going to air the first episode of a six-show stand-up series called "All Def Comedy" that Simmons is producing. They say they're going to take his name off the credits and he won't appear in the program. But it seems he could still earn money from some of these businesses, so it's hard to know what it means that he's going to be stepping away.

MCEVERS: And quickly, you know, Simmons is seen as the dean of hip-hop. I mean, what does this mean for his legacy?

DEGGANS: I know. At age 60 he's been seen as sort of the grand old man of hip-hop and a successful entrepreneur who helped turn rap into a major commercial force. These allegations are certainly going to complicate that legacy. We've seen other people accused of things like this, and maybe other things will come out, but this is a cultural moment for us.

MCEVERS: NPR's Eric Deggans, thank you.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.