Lumet’s story comes after other allegations against Simmons from the former model Keri Claussen Khalighi. She told the Los Angeles Times that when she was 17, in 1991, she went up to Simmons’s apartment to see a music video he’d been working on with the director Brett Ratner, who was also present. Simmons allegedly began pulling off her clothes and trying to force her into sex. “I fought it wildly,” she remembered. Eventually, he got her to perform oral sex. “I guess I just acquiesced,” she said.
Simmons has said that he remembers these two evenings differently than Khalighi and Lumet do, though he says he regrets that these women are in pain. With regards to Khalighi’s story, he insisted the encounter was consensual and shared affidavits from people who had seen her and him together hanging out happily around the time of the alleged assault. “As a longtime social activist … I am supporter of the #MeToo campaign,” he said in his response, adding, “Abusing women in any way, shape, or form violates the very core of my being.”
That last line is quoted in Lumet’s Hollywood Reporter essay, a powerful account of what she says Simmons did to her. She also quotes him saying, in his refutation of Khalighi, that he “would never knowingly cause fear or harm to anyone.” The implication is that she is sharing her story in part to pierce Simmons’s high-minded PR. Khalighi, too, originally said she shared her accusation because “what I’ve experienced privately is not matching what they are saying publicly and hypocrisy to me is repugnant,” referring to Simmons and Ratner’s denial of other sexual-assault allegations that led to a police investigation in 2001.
Simmons’s response Thursday may not dispel the sense of unearned sanctimony on the mogul’s part. Announcing he would leave his companies, he wrote,
This is a time of great transition. The voices of the voiceless, those who have been hurt or shamed, deserve and need to be heard. As the corridors of power inevitably make way for a new generation, I don’t want to be a distraction so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded. The companies will now be run by a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward. I will convert the studio for yogic science into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing. As for me, I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening.
If the mentions of “yogic science” and “spiritual learning” are novel in the recent wave of apologies from powerful men, the piety is familiar. Harvey Weinstein’s initial response to sexual-assault accusations, after all, included a mention of wanting to fight for gun control. It also chalked up his behavior to being raised in an old, chauvinistic “culture,” a notion that is relevant in Simmons’s case as well.