Update: Russell Simmons has written a response to his accusers in The Hollywood Reporter. In it, Simmons writes, "I also know from recent painful personal experience that some recollections can be cast in a light away from the actual facts." He goes on to say the claims made by model Keri Claussen Khalighi that their interaction was not consensual is contradicted by signed statements from three witnesses and that he is sorry for her "embarrassment."
Simmons writes that, "I never committed any acts of aggression or violence in my life." In the same paragraph, he apologises to the women in his life to whom he has made unenlightened comments and for his "playboy" behaviour.
This story was originally published on November 19, 2017.
Ratner, who has faced multiple claims of sexual harassment and abuse, is described as being close friends with both Toback and Simmons. The Times investigation suggests that the men were part of a pack of high-profile men engaging in alleged abusive behaviour against vulnerable women.
All told, six women, including Rush Hour 3 actress Sarah Shahi, have come forward with new allegations. Both Toback and Ratner are accused of having masturbated in the presence of female guests; the former allegedly used his friend Ratner's home to do the deed. Ratner is also accused of showing a female colleague nude photos of a famous girlfriend in 2004. His lawyer denied the claims.
Keri Claussen Khalighi claims that, in 1991, Ratner was present when Simmons allegedly removed the then-17-year-old model's clothes and "coerced" her into performing oral sex. She also accused the Def Jam co-founder of penetrating her without her consent. Ratner, she told the Times, offered no assistance.
“I looked over at Brett and said ‘help me’ and I'll never forget the look on his face,” Claussen Khalighi said. “In that moment, the realisation fell on me that they were in it together.”
Both men have denied her claims.
“Everything that occurred between Keri and me occurred with her full consent and participation,” Simmons said in a statement to the Times, though Claussen Khalighi insisted he has acknowledged and apologised for his conduct in private conversations. Ratner's attorney, Marty Singer, added that his client had "no recollection" of the alleged incident.
It's not the first time the two men have been linked to sexual misconduct. In 2001, a woman told police that Simmons and Ratner "unlawfully touched her." No criminal charges were filed, with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office citing a lack of evidence.
The women who have come forward paint a picture of powerful men "enabling" one another to engage in sexual misconduct. Since the Times story broke this morning, actor Terry Crews has spoken out about his own experience with Simmons. The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star tweeted a screenshot of an email Simmons allegedly sent him, in which he urges Crews to give agent Adam Venit "a pass." Venit is the Hollywood executive Crews has accused of sexually assaulting him.
If true, that would certainly be at odds with Simmons' insistence that he's sympathetic to those who have been sexually assaulted.
“Let me be crystal clear and very direct," he told the Times. "Abusing women in any way shape or form violates the very core of my being."