Over 20 women to date have accused music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual assault—some of whom shared their accounts in the new HBO Max documentary On the Record. Simmons, who has repeatedly denied the allegations, was given a platform to discredit his accusers in an interview with Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club on Wednesday.
The video interview, which showed Simmons sitting cross-legged in a home he says he built to “get away from the media” in Bali, began with his light-hearted rants about veganism and yogic spiritual practices before pivoting briefly to Simmons’s thoughts on police reform—“I’m excited about the reforms,” he said, mentioning a recent conversation he had with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. The show’s co-host Charlamagne Tha God then asked Simmons to ground himself in preparation for questions about On the Record.
Released in May, the documentary centers predominantly on Drew Dixon, a former executive at Simmons’s label, Def Jam Recordings. Dixon alleges that Simmons raped her in his apartment, after which she says her career suffered. The film features additional commentary from music industry insiders about how black women’s stories are too often overlooked or erased within the MeToo movement, which initially brought the allegations against Simmons to the surface.
When asked if he’d seen On the Record, Simmons responded that he hadn’t watched it, “But I’m aware of it,” he said. While admitting to the mistreatment of women in his past, Simmons took a moment to go on a tirade about how he was merely guilty of being a womanizer and blamed his behavior on “living in an unjust society” that doesn’t value women.
In response to the allegations, Simmons told The Breakfast Club, “There isn’t a black actress that I didn’t date that isn’t my friend. They don’t have the experience of me being the monster that the movie paints me out to be.” Simmons added, “I can’t say someone doesn’t feel victimized. But I can tell you that I don’t feel that I victimized them.”
Sil Lai Abrams, who is featured in On the Record and accused Simmons of raping her in 1994, wrote a series of tweets questioning the validity of the Breakfast Club interview and accused the show of being complicit in “ensuring that Black women’s right to bodily autonomy continues to be denied.”
The Breakfast Club’s choice to allow Simmons to pontificate and ramble about his innocence with minimal pushback is exemplary of the point that On the Record attempts to make. Victims’ stories, specifically black women victims, are often pushed to the side or squashed completely in an effort to protect the reputation of a successful man. But that protection should never come at the expense of black women. The claim that he preyed on vulnerable women working in the industry deserves proper interrogation, not an hour of DJ Envy referring to him as “Uncle Russ,” as if everything is cool.
Plunging listeners into even deeper discomfort and confusion, Simmons explained that he had taken and passed nine separate lie detector tests. He also referenced a report published by The Hollywood Reporter in 2017, in which Lumet says Simmons sexually violated her in his apartment. “I read Jenny Lumet’s report, and I believed her, but I also passed nine tests ’cause I believe me,” Simmons told The Breakfast Club. In the report, Lumet says Simmons initially offered her a ride home from an event but that he instead had his driver take them both to his apartment against Lumet’s will. “Then the car doors locked. It was loud. The noise made me jump,” Lumet wrote.
In the interview with The Breakfast Club, Simmons addressed the allegation with alarming blitheness, stating, “Well shit, car doors locked in the ’90s. Loud.”
When Charlamagne asked Simmons what he tells his daughters, Simmons went on another disjointed tirade about the divine feminine and what he believes is the converse of that energy: toxic femininity: “I want my daughters to have appropriate boundaries. Toxic femininity is when one might not put up those boundaries and regret it later,” he said.
Simmons has not been charged on any sexual assault allegations and is not currently under criminal investigation. He claims he is “stuck in Bali” due to covid-19 travel restrictions.