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Following the debut of HBO Max’s sexual assault documentary On the Record — which features accounts from multiple women accusing Russell Simmons of rape — the hip-hop mogul was invited onto The Breakfast Club, where he once again denied the allegations against him.
“Back then, I thought it was a game. … There were no Black actresses that I didn’t date and they’re my friends today,” Simmons said on the long-running radio show. “They don’t have the experience of me being a monster the movie makes me out to be.”
He later added, “I can never say that someone doesn’t feel victimized. I can tell you that I don’t feel that I victimized them.”
Not long after the interview was posted online, Sil Lai Abrams — one of Russell’s accusers featured in On the Record — took to Twitter to criticize The Breakfast Club for giving her alleged abuser a platform. (Prior to this interview, Simmons had already vehemently denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.)
“Why do you carry water for this man?” tweeted Abrams, who claims Simmons raped her in 1994. “Why now? Why are you so tone deaf? You’re all complicit in ensuring that black women’s right to bodily autonomy continues to be denied. You’re also rape apologists.”
“I wrote about the rape in my first and second books. 2007 and 2016 respectively,” Abrams added, responding to a Twitter user questioning why she is “relitigating 30 year old stories.” She also wrote that Simmons receiving air time in 2020 makes her “feel sick.”
“The biggest radio show in the black community just gave a huge middle finger to black women and survivors of sexual assault,” Abrams wrote in another tweet. “Stunts like what @breakfastclubam is pulling this morning by having Russell Simmons on to talk about *social justice of all things* is why it took over 25 years for R. Kelly to start to be held accountable for his serial predation of Black women and girls.”
Simmons said in his interview that he has not yet watched On the Record, which also features accounts from Abrams’ fellow accusers Drew Dixon and Sheri Sher — women who have also leveled rape allegations against Simmons.
Although Time’s Up did not outwardly support the documentary, the organization responded to Simmons’ Breakfast Club interview with a statement defending the women who appeared in the film.
“Black survivors endure a number of historical, cultural, and systemic barriers to being heard, supported and believed,” the statement read in part. “Immediately before an emotional conversation about police brutality against Black women on The Breakfast Club this morning, Russell Simmons peddled numerous myths about sexual assault, stereotypes about Black women, and distortions of facts in denying the multiple sexual assault allegations against him.”
Oprah Winfrey in December was announced as an executive producer of On the Record. At the time, Simmons publicly questioned Winfrey’s involvement, writing on Instagram, “I have never been violent or forced myself on anyone.”
Just before its January premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Winfrey and distributor Apple TV+ left the project, with Winfrey citing creative differences with the filmmakers. “There is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured,” Winfrey said in part in a statement. “I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women.”
HBO Max picked up the documentary in February following its Sundance debut, and it is now available to stream on the new platform, which launched on May 27.
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