January 22, 2020

#MeToo activists accuse Oprah of throwing Russell Simmons accusers under the bus
Oprah Winfrey is facing mounting criticism after withdrawing from a documentary about the sexual misconduct allegations against Russell Simmons, a decision activists are slamming as "callous." Winfrey was originally attached as executive producer of the upcoming documentary focusing on the Simmons allegations, On the Record, but she removed her name from it earlier this month. Although Winfrey said in a statement she "unequivocally believes and supports the women," she says she had concerns about "some inconsistencies in the stories." Simmons has denied the allegations against him. "This latest turn of events has been extraordinarily disorienting and upsetting," domestic violence activist Sil Lai Abrams, who has accused Simmons of rape, told The Hollywood Reporter. Equality Now global director Yasmeen Hassan criticized Winfrey, telling the Reporter her decision was "callous" and saying, "There needs to be a lot more explanation given to these women, at the very least. This feels mind-boggling and is very bad for the #MeToo movement." Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein additionally described the situation as "one of the saddest moments for the #MeToo movement," adding, "Just think how hard it is going to be for women, particularly women of color, to come forward next time when they have been thrown under the bus by none other than Oprah." The Reporter notes that although Winfrey has cited alleged inconsistencies, especially in the account of the film's central accuser Drew Dixon, the Times' report on Dixon's allegations "was well vetted." Winfrey reportedly had additional issues with the film, including concerns over whether "the two filmmakers, who are white, captured the nuances of hip-hop culture and the struggles of black women," the Times writes. On the Record is still scheduled to have its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25. Editor's note: This story's characterization of Sil Lai Abrams' comments has been updated.
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