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Appearing on CBS This Morning to promote her new book club selection, Oprah Winfrey explained why she took her name off of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s Sundance-bound documentary, On the Record, about sexual assault in the music industry, featuring women who’ve accused Russell Simmons of misconduct.
Winfrey, a victim of sexual assault herself, said she understood what it’s like not to be believed and reiterated that she believes the women featured in the documentary but insisted her move was due to “inconsistencies” in the film and a desire to get things right.
“The only question for me is what is the right thing to do,” Winfrey said, explaining that before she was publicly pressured by Simmons and others to drop the doc, she went to the filmmakers and said they had a “problem” because of new information that had come forward and argued that they should pull the doc from Sundance or she’d have to take her name off of it.
“I just care about getting it right,” Winfrey said, adding that she told the filmmakers, “I think there’s some inconsistencies in the stories that we need to look at.” She explained on CBS This Morning that she wanted the context broadened and more women added.
Winfrey, who had served as an executive producer on the film, took her name off the documentary and pulled it from AppleTV+ 11 days ago, shortly before its Sundance world premiere, which is still set for Saturday, Jan. 25. In a statement at the time, Winfrey said in part, “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.”
Even though she took her name off the documentary after Simmons publicly pressured her to do so, Winfrey insisted, “This is not a victory for Russell.… I did not pull out because of Russell.… I cannot be silenced by Russell Simmons after all I’ve been through.”
And she called claims that she wasn’t standing up for black women and could be intimidated by Simmons “ridiculous.”
Winfrey said she hopes people see the film and make their own decisions.
The film, from the directors of acclaimed sexual assault docs The Hunting Ground and The Invisible War, features interviews with a number of women who’ve accused Simmons of rape, including Sil Lai Abrams, Sherri Hines, Jenny Lumet and former Def Jam executive Drew Dixon.
“It may have been the filmmakers’ focus on Dixon at the exclusion of other womens’ stories that troubled Winfrey,” The Hollywood Reporter stated in a feature last week, but Dick says the focus on Dixon’s experience is due to her having “such an amazing story and such deep insights into her experience that it just opened up a whole world to us. We thought if we were feeling, ‘Wow, this is a whole new world of understanding these issues,’ audiences would feel the same way.”
When Winfrey asked the filmmakers to hold the doc back from Sundance and keep working on it, they responded, “This movie is going to Sundance with or without Oprah,” a source close to Winfrey told THR.
Watch more of Winfrey’s interview below.
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