“I feel like I’m experiencing a second crime. I am being silenced,” said Drew Dixon, a music exec who accused Russell Simmons of sexual assault, after finding out that Oprah Winfrey had withdrawn herself from a #MeToo-era documentary examining the other alleged accounts of sexual harassment and assault involving music mogul Simmons.
Now, just a little over a week after Winfrey’s Jan. 10 announcement to sever ties with the project, her best friend of more than 20 years, Gayle King, is saying that Simmons’ rumored pressure to have the billionaire withdraw from the film is simply not true.
“Nothing can be further from the case,” said the “CBS This Morning” anchor.
Fans as well as supporters and detractors of the #MeToo movement all witnessed Simmons make public pleas on social media for Winfrey, someone he considered a friend, to not participate in the selling of “lies” at his expense. In his plea, he made clear that his desire was for Winfrey to strongly give consideration that stories of him violently forcing himself on others were false.
“I have refused to get in the mud with any accusers, but let’s acknowledge what I have shared. I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detectors test (taken for my daughters), that these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, BUZZFEED, NY POST, NY MAG, AND OTHERS. Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; these stories are UNUSABLE and that ‘hurt people hurt people,'” wrote Simmons in a lengthy Instagram post.
Still, King remains adamant that Winfrey didn’t just roll over and submit to the pressure Simmons allegedly tried to apply to the media mogul’s decision.
“I know this was a very stressful and very difficult decision for her to take her name off because she knows that her taking her name off because, as you point out, Russell has done a very public and very private campaign to convince her, she knows that the message that sends is that maybe she was muzzled,” said King on “CBS This Morning.”
The billionaire’s announcement came just a month after signing on to serve as executive producer for the documentary titled “On the Record.” With the backing of the most influential Black woman came an audience of millions that would have viewed the film on the AppleTV + streaming service. But with Winfrey’s departure, the film is left in limbo and people are questioning if Simmons, a self-proclaimed yogi, could really be that strong of a force to reckon with.
“The broader community is being intimidated. The most powerful black woman in the world is being intimidated,” added Dixon.
Winfrey herself has said, “I told him directly in a phone call that I will not be pressured either into, or out of, backing this film. I am only going to do what I believe to be the right thing.”
For Winfrey, severing ties with a film that she believed was not ready for the public to view was the best decision.