Russell Simmons tried to force Oprah Winfrey out of working on the documentary about his sexual assault allegations but it wasn’t his efforts that caused her to ditch the project, the television icon has revealed.
Winfrey announced last week she was stepping away from the “On the Record” project as its executive producer, nearly one month after receiving backlash from Simmons. She also shared that it will no longer air on Apple TV+.
Now, in a new statement to Fox News, Winfrey revealed what exactly was going on behind the scenes and detailed Simmons’ attempts to stop her involvement.
“He did reach out multiple times and attempted to pressure me,” Winfrey told Fox News through a spokesperson on Saturday.
The spokesperson added that Winfrey’s decision to separate herself from the documentary was not due to Simmons’ incessant attempts. Instead, Winfrey found inconsistencies in the reporting for the “On the Record” documentary, specifically with the story coming from one of the music producer’s accusers, Drew Dixon.
Despite her exit, Winfrey’s spokesperson confirmed the media mogul believes Dixon as well as the other women who come forward in the film.
“First and foremost, she believes all of the women,” the spokesperson told Fox News.
The spokesperson added that Winfrey felt the film did not need to be rushed to the Sundance Film Festival, scheduled to premiere on Jan. 25.
Winfrey announced her decision to step down as the documentary’s executive producer in a statement to Fox News last week.
“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+,” Winfrey shared in a statement. “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.”
Dixon is one of the multiple women who made sexual assault allegations against Simmons, 62. The famed record executive was accused of rape by at least three women in 2017 and adamantly denied the allegations.
Simmons penned his own message to Winfrey last month maintaining his innocence, which he reposted again following the news of Oprah’s exit.
“Dearest OPRAH, you have been a shining light to my family and my community,” he wrote. “It’s so troubling that you choose to single me out in your recent documentry [sic]. 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. … So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences.”
“I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detector tests,” he added. “These stories are UNUSABLE.”
Rapper 50 Cent also previously called out Winfrey via his social media accounts.
“I don’t understand why Oprah is going after black men,” 50 Cent, real name Curtis Jackson, wrote on social media. “No Harvey Weinstein, No Epstein, just Micheal [sic] jackson and Russell Simmons this s–t is sad.”
In a joint statement to Fox News, Simmons’ silence-breakers and survivors said: “We are more than victims of rape. We are Black women. We are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends insisting on our right to live and work free from sexual violence and abuse. We will not back down, and we will not be silenced. We are not afraid. When we raised our anguished voices to say, ‘No! Stop! Don’t’ to Russell Simmons, he ignored us.”