Entrepreneur and producer Russell Simmons allegedly forced himself onto a 17-year-old model after inviting her back to his apartment, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times published Sunday.
Keri Claussen Khalighi told the paper that when she was a 17-year-old model in 1991, she was invited back to Simmons’ apartment with him and Brett Ratner, who was then an up-and-coming music video director. Khalighi had met the two at a casting call and was reportedly invited to Simmons’ apartment to see a music video Simmons and Ratner had been working on.
Once they arrived at his apartment, Khalighi alleged, Simmons began removing Khalighi’s clothes and making “aggressive sexual advances,” the L.A. Times reported.
“I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” Khaligi recalled to the Times. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.”
According to Khalighi’s account, Simmons tried to force her to have intercourse with him — which she “fought ... wildly” — before coercing her to perform oral sex as Ratner watched. Afterward, Simmons reportedly approached Khalighi in the shower and “briefly penetrated her without her consent,” according to the L.A. Times.
With the report, Simmons becomes the latest powerful man to face an accusation of sexual misconduct amid a spate of allegations incited by the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Its publication follows a previous report by the newspaper about Ratner, in which six women — including actress Olivia Munn — came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the director.
Additional accounts of women who said they had been assaulted, harassed and, in one case, raped, by Ratner were published in the Sunday Times article. In one of those accounts, former hotel employee Tanya Reid alleged that Simmons, who was staying with Ratner at the Miami hotel where Reid worked, had called Reid at the front desk with a sexually harassing message.
“I remember this very, very clearly, the exact words [Simmons] said on the phone,” Reid said. “He wanted me to come upstairs so Brett could hold me down and he could [perform oral sex].”
During a later incident, Reid was coerced into performing oral sex on Ratner after he exposed himself to her, she recounted to the L.A. Times. Reid was 18 at the time of the incident.
The newspaper noted that since publishing its initial story about Ratner additional women have contacted the Times about the director whose credits include X-Men: The Last Stand and the Rush Hour franchise. Ratner has denied the charges against him, including the allegations published Sunday, but he has already faced some consequences, as Warner Bros. has severed ties with the filmmaker since the Times’ initial report.
In a statement released in response to the Times article, Simmons also denied the claims against him by Khalighi and Reid. On his Twitter, the Def Jam Records cofounder emphasized his social advocacy and support of the #MeToo campaign, before stating that he “completely and unequivocally [denies] the horrendous allegations of non-consensual sex against me with every fiber of my being.”
“I know Keri Claussen Khalighi and remember the weekend in 1991 that she has referenced,” Simmons wrote. “Everything that happened between us 26 years ago was completely consensual and with Keri’s full participation.”
In his statement, Simmons alleged that much of his time with Khalighi was “in the presence of other acquaintances.”
“I’m deeply saddened and truly shocked to learn of Keri’s assertions as to what happened over the course of that weekend,” Simmons continued.
In response to Reid’s allegation, the entrepreneur said: “I mean no disrespect to [Reid] at all when I say I honestly do not recall my telephone conversation with a hotel front desk clerk from over a quarter-century ago.”
But Khalighi told the L.A. Times that Simmons apologized to her in private, during a 27-minute phone conversation after the initial allegations against Ratner were published. The paper said it was able to corroborate via phone records that Khalighi and Simmons recently spoke on the phone.
Khalighi also allegedly spoke with Ratner about the incident when she ran into him “about 15 years ago,” and claims he “listened and he undefensively acknowledged the truth of what had happened.” Ratner said he now has “no recollection” of the conversation, according to the Times.
“They are publicly denying these allegations, which implies that the women who come forward are liars,” Khalighi told the L.A. Times. “So I’m coming out because what I’ve experienced privately is not matching what they are saying publicly and hypocrisy to me is repugnant and it’s time for the truth to come out.”