Ex-Recording Academy Chief Neil Portnow Calls Rape Claims "Ludicrous and Untrue"

Neil Portnow - Pre-Grammy Gala - Getty - H 2018
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The former boss of the Grammy Awards responded to Deborah Dugan's complaint allegations Wednesday.

Former Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow has responded to the explosive complaint filed by his ousted successor Deborah Dugan.

Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave amid allegations of workplace bullying just ahead of Sunday's Grammy Awards, filed a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences on Tuesday.

Among the claims in the complaint, Dugan says the reason former CEO Portnow's contract wasn't renewed is that he's accused of raping a female performer. She alleges that the complaints made against her to the board came from Portnow's executive assistant and says she told HR she was asked to hire Portnow as a consultant and pay him $750,000, despite his bowing away from the Academy "in disgrace after making misogynistic remarks about women recording artists."

On Wednesday, Portnow responded to Dugan's claims, calling the allegations of rape "ludicrous and untrue." He added in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, "An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally."

Portnow, who has served as the head of the organization that produces the Grammys since 2002, stepped down from his post amid Academy scandal when his contract expired in 2019.

Read Portnow's statement in full below:

This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me. Here is what is true:

The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue. The suggestion that there was is disseminating a lie. The baseless complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the Board of Director’s Executive Committee. An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally.

I fulfilled the terms and responsibilities of my contract during my 17 years as President and ultimately Chief Executive Officer. Consistent with my pledge to ensure that there would be the appropriate amount of time for the Academy to organize and execute an efficient and transparent transition, I determined far in advance of the GRAMMY telecast in 2018 that I would not seek a further extension of my contract scheduled to end July 31, 2019. I informed the then Board Chair and Executive Committee of my decision. At no time did I ever demand a $750,000 consulting fee.

After making the ‘step up’ comment during the 2018 telecast, for which I have apologized and deeply regret the offense caused, and understanding the power of listening and lessons learned, I took action. I proposed, and the Academy created an independent Task Force to review the state of diversity & inclusion across the organization. After presenting the Task Force plan and proposed study of the organization to the board, the group was created to implement change. Task Force Chair Tina Tchen made a presentation to the full Board during a May 2019 meeting.

The repetition of these falsehoods against me, and others referenced within the EEOC filing are a diversionary tactic and will not convert them to truth. I will vigorously defend all false claims made against me in this document.

I would like to wish all the 2020 nominees and those in our creative community well and sincerely hope that they will celebrate their art and accomplishments this weekend at the GRAMMY Awards telecast and during the many GRAMMY Week events ahead.