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#MeToo: Oprah Winfrey Steps Down From Russell Simmons Rape Documentary

Russell Simmons speaks at a benefit in Water Mill, N.Y., in July 2015. | Image: Scott Roth/Invision/AP

American media executive Oprah Winfrey has withdrawn from as executive producer from a #MeToo documentary that reportedly features rape accusers of former record executive Russell Simons.

Winfrey on Friday announced her decision in a statement to Deadline, confirming the doc is no longer part of her overall deal with Apple TV+. Sources tell the publication that the untitled project, produced and directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, will still premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.

“I have decided that I will no longer be executive producer on The Untitled Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Documentary and it will not air on Apple TV+. First and foremost, I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women. Their stories deserve to be told and heard. In my opinion, there is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured and it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision.

“Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are talented filmmakers. I have great respect for their mission but given the filmmakers’ desire to premiere the film at the Sundance Film Festival before I believe it is complete, I feel it’s best to step aside. I will be working with Time’s Up to support the victims and those impacted by abuse and sexual harassment.”

The documentary will tell the story of Drew Dixon, a former music executive who was among the group of women who accused Simmons of sexual assault in 2017. After the third assault allegation was published in a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter on November 2017, by Jenny Lumet, Simmons stepped down from his roles in the label Def Jam Records, his yoga lifestyle brand, CNNMoney, and other media properties.

In an open letter to Oprah on his Instagram page, Simmons denied his accusers’ allegations and claimed he has taken multiple polygraphs to prove his innocence.

“Dearest OPRAH, you have been a shining light to my family and my community. Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog…we bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentary,” he wrote.

“I have taken and passed nine three-hour lie detector tests (taken for my daughters) … these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, BUZZFEED, NY POST, NY MAG, AND OTHERS. Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that ‘hurt people hurt people.'”

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Dearest OPRAH,you have been a shining light to my family and my community. Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog.Ihave given you the gift of meditation and the groundbreaking book”THE POWER OF NOW “we bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentry. I have already admitted to being a playboy more (appropriately titled today “womanizer”) sleeping with and putting myself in more compromising situations than almost any man I know. Not 8 or 14 thousand like Warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain, but still an embarrassing number. So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences. Please note that ur producers said that this upcoming doc was to focus ONLY on 3 hand chosen women. I have refused to get in the mud with any accusers, but let’s acknowledge what i have shared. I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detector tests (taken for my daughters), that these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, BUZZFEED, NY POST, NY MAG, AND OTHERS. Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that “hurt people hurt people”. Today I received a call from an old girlfriend from the early 1980s which means that they are using my words/evidence against me and their COMMITMENT/ (all of the claims are 25 to 40 years old) It is impossible to prove what happened 40 years ago, but in my case proof exists of what didn’t happen, mostly signed letters from their own parents, siblings, roommates, band members, interns, and in the case of 2 of your 3 accusers,their own words in their books. Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money. … In closing, I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society, but i have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. Still I am here to help support a necessary shift in power and consciousness. Let us get to work on uplifting humanity and put this moment and old narrative behind us

A post shared by Russell Simmons (@unclerush) on

In December 2019, Rapper Curtis Jackson popularly known as 50 Cent accused Winfrey of “going after black men”. In the now-deleted Instagram post, he wrote:

“I don’t understand why Oprah is going after black men. No Harvey Weinstein, No Epstein, just Micheal Jackson and Russell Simmons this sh*t is sad. Gale hit R Kelly with the death-blow documentary. Every time I hear Micheal Jackson, I don’t know whether to dance or think about the little boy’s butts. These documentary’s are publicly convicting their targets, it makes them guilty till proven innocent.”

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