Oprah Winfrey has backed out as executive producer of a documentary created to shine a light on sexual assault in the music industry.
The media mogul announced her decision to step away from the project this week, nearly one month after receiving backlash from Russell Simmons, one of the accused assaulters featured in the documentary. She also shared that it will no longer air on Apple TV+.
“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 said in a statement to Fox News. “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.
The statement continued: “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 features Drew Dixon, who 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 Saturday 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.”
Simmons further claimed that he’s “never been violent or forced myself on anyone.” His statement was backed by rapper 50 Cent, who accused the television icon of producing a project that unfairly targeted black men.
“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.”
Later on, 50 Cent shared another photo on Instagram that was a composite of six men accused of sexual misconduct: Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, Kevin Spacey and President Donald Trump.
Cosby and R. Kelly have “JAIL” written over their images while the four remaining men — all of whom are white — have “WALK” written over them.
Time’s Up Foundation president and CEO Tina Tchen reacted to Winfrey’s departure in a statement Friday.
“Time’s Up is in full support of the survivors who have spoken out about Russell Simmons. These women are brave. We believe them. We support Oprah Winfrey in maintaining that the victims’ stories deserve to be heard on their own terms. Too often, black women are silenced, disbelieved, or even vilified when they speak out,” she wrote on Instagram.
“On top of that, for years, these women have been attacked by powerful forces surrounding Russell Simmons – illustrating how difficult it is to speak out against powerful men. And how important it is for powerful men to be held accountable for their actions. As Oprah made clear in her statement, any decision by her and Apple regarding this documentary does not change the underlying facts.
“We assert Time’s Up’s unwavering support for these survivors,” Tchen wrote. “We are in awe of their courage and strength. We will continue to fight for them, and we will continue to fight for a future where black women are truly heard and believed.”
Fox News’ Jessica Napoli contributed to this report.