#MeToo Activists Pledge Support for Russell Simmons Accusers Ahead of Doc Premiere

Omar Mullick/Courtesy of Sundance Institute
'On the Record'

One name missing from the open letter's signees is women's empowerment movement Time's Up.

Survivors of sexual misconduct and their advocates published a statement on Thursday supporting Russell Simmons' accusers on the eve of a documentary that highlights their voices.

“It takes great courage for any survivors of sexual assault to come forward, especially publicly. We admire the bravery of all of the Russell Simmons’ survivors and the #silencebreakers who stepped up to share their story in the @OnTheRecordDoc. We are unequivocally united in supporting the survivors in the film and all survivors of Russell Simmons. We want them to know: We believe you. We hear you. You deserve to be seen. #MeToo,” reads the statement, which was signed by names including Rose McGowan, Alyssa Milano, Evan Rachel Wood and others.

Other signatories include Ai-Jen Poo, Eve Ensler, Gina Belafonte, Gloria Steinem, Frances Fisher, Idina Menzel, Marisa Tomei, Frances Fisher, Monica Ramirez, Rosanna Arquette and Thandie Newton. Organizations who lent their names to the statement include Equality Now, V-Day, UltraViolet and Women and Hollywood. One name missing from the open letter's signees is women's empowerment movement Time's Up.

Accusers of the music mogul will detail their stories in Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering's documentary On the Record, set to debut Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival. The film features interviews with a number of women who have accused Simmons of rape, including Sil Lai Abrams, Sherri Hines, Jenny Lumet and former Def Jam executive Drew Dixon. (Simmons, who has been accused of sexual assault by at least 20 women, denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex).

Ahead of the high-profile doc's festival premiere, executive producer Oprah Winfrey made the decision to step away from the project, citing creative differences with the filmmakers. 

"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 The Hollywood Reporter. "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," Winfrey 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."

Winfrey's withdrawal surprised the accusers, who, according to sources, were never contacted by Winfrey about her exit from the film. Dixon, whose claims of being sexually attacked by Simmons in 1994 are at the center of the doc, told THR that "the last few days have been like a hellscape that I honestly can't even really believe is real."

"I'm still just trying to wrap my head around the fact that somehow this is where we all find ourselves going into Sundance, which was already a source of anxiety, and now it's just turned into a pressure cooker and it's really, really scary," she said. 

In a response to Winfrey's decision, Time's Up Foundation president and CEO Tina Tchen shared in a statement, "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.

"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," Tchen continued. "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. 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."

Read the full list of signatories of the statement below.

Individuals

Ai-Jen Poo

Alexandra Posen

Alysia Reiner

Alyssa Milano

Aminatou Sow

Amy Carlson

Angela Rose

Anne Ream

Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Bonnie Abaunza

Bridgit Antoinette Evans

Caitlin Dulany

Caroline Heldman

Charlotte Sheedy

Dan Cogan

Evan Rachel Wood

Eve Ensler

Frances Fisher

Geralyn Dreyfous

Gina Belafonte

Gloria Steinem

Hibaaq Osman

Heidi Schreck

Idina Menzel

Isolde Brielmaier

Jamia Wilson

Jenny Raskin

Jerri Moomaw

Jess McIntosh

Jess Morales Rocketto

Judith Bruce

Julia Pacetti

Kamilah Willingham

Katherine Kendall

Kevin Powell

Lara Stein

Larissa Gomes

Liesl Gerntholtz

Lili Bernard

Lisa Shannon

Liz Garbus

Liz Plank

Marisa Tomei

Monica Ramirez

Nelini Stamp

Pamela Guest

Pat Mitchell

Paula J. Giddings

Professor Kimberle Crenshaw

Rachel Lears

Rosanna Arquette

Rose McGowan

Sarah Sophie Flicker

Sheetal Sheth

Simon Kilmurry

Susan Celia Swan

Susan Xenarios

Taina Bien Aime

Tanya Selvaratnam

Teresa C. Younger

Thandie Newton

Yara Travieso

Yasmeen Hassan

Zillah Eisenstein

 

Organizations

Black Women's Blueprint

Chicago Media Project

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women

Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking

Cohen Law Group

Equality Now

Everywoman Everywhere

Feminist Camp

Futures Without Violence

Girls for Gender Equity

HEART Women & Girls

HERUNIVERCITY INC.

Impact Partners

InMaat Foundation

Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative

Justice For Migrant Women

Karama

MADRE

Ms. Foundation for Women

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Domestic Workers Alliance

National Women's Law Center

New York Alliance on Sexual Assault

New York Women's Foundation

One Billion Rising

Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service

PAVE

Promundo-US

Protect Our Defenders

Rights4Girls

Sisterhood Is Global Institute

The Voices and Faces Project

Tools & Tiaras

UltraViolet

V-Day

We Are the Federation

Witness

Women and Hollywood

Women in Film, Los Angeles

Women's Equal Justice Project

Women’s March Global

World Without Exploitation