‘Breakfast Club’ host apologizes to Sil Lai Abrams for Russell Simmons interview
Russell Simmons addressed the sexual assault allegations against him earlier this month, speaking out in his first major interview since the high-profile premiere of “On the Record,” a documentary that spotlights his many accusers. A week later, the interview prompted one of the radio hosts to apologize to one of the women in a separate segment.
In a controversial radio interview with “The Breakfast Club” on June 10, Simmons ranted about the critically acclaimed film and his reputation, as well as about Oprah Winfrey, who famously dropped out as executive producer of “On the Record” weeks before its Sundance Film Festival debut in January.
For the record:
11:59 a.m. June 15, 2020An earlier version of this story referred to Sheri Sher as Sherri Hines. Sherri Hines was her married name, which she no longer uses.
“I have not watched it, but I’m aware,” Simmons said when asked about the film about 13 minutes into the sprawling conversation. “I know what I’m guilty of. And I’ve been unconscious, as a playboy, and today the title is appropriate of womanizer. So I’m guilty of that.”
“On the Record” features interviews with Drew Dixon, who alleges Simmons raped her when she was a 24-year-old executive at his label, Def Jam Recordings, in 1995. She is one of 20 women who have accused Simmons of sexual misconduct, including activist-writer Sil Lai Abrams, director Jenny Lumet, hip-hop artist Sheri Sher and model Keri Claussen Khalighi.
Simmons has denied ever having non-consensual relations with women.
Abrams was among several on social media who slammed “The Breakfast Club” for giving Simmons a platform, challenging the radio hosts to invite her, Dixon and Sher for a follow-up discussion.
"['The Breakfast Club’] has Russell Simmons on their show *as we speak* to kiki it up with a man credibly accused of rape & attempted sexual assault to promote his book,” Abrams tweeted. “This is what we’re up against, folks. The abject silencing & erasure of his survivors and his history of violence.”
Dixon also voiced her disgust for “The Breakfast Club,” calling the Simmons interview “a toxic mess.”
"[Simmons] is a serial rapist, and many of his victims are Black women,” she tweeted. “Yet [Charlamagne Tha God] gives him a platform in the midst of a noble quest for Black liberation. We’ll never get this foot off of our necks as Black people, if we don’t love ourselves.”
On Wednesday, “The Breakfast Club” aired a follow-up interview with Abrams, in which cohost Angela Yee apologized for “triggering” Simmons’ accusers by inviting the disgraced producer on the show. Yee noted that she had already planned on featuring the women from “On the Record” on “The Breakfast Club” prior to the backlash.
“What was painful for me as a survivor was being silenced for so long, and the first time that Russell pops up is on a show with such a reach as ‘The Breakfast Club,’ and that he was unchallenged essentially throughout the entire interview,” Abrams told Yee, referring to Simmons as the “Harvey Weinstein of the hip-hop community.”
“And not only was he unchallenged and allowed to perpetuate a lot of very harmful myths around rape and around the women that have accused him, but also it was very retraumatizing. It was a traumatic experience because we didn’t have an opportunity to speak.”
“The Breakfast Club” has aired divisive segments in the past with guests such as former Vice President Joe Biden and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. Earlier this month, Limbaugh clashed with the “Breakfast Club” team, saying he didn’t believe in white privilege during a conversation about George Floyd and the ongoing protests.
Before “On the Record” premiered, Simmons said he had pressured Winfrey to disassociate herself from the project, but Winfrey asserts she left the doc of her own volition because of creative differences with directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. The filmmakers later recounted their shock and disappointment upon learning of Winfrey’s departure.
“Enter Queen Oprah, who herself is an investigative journalist,” Simmons said on June 10. “And I said, ‘It’s absolutely no way she’s gonna go forward when I present her with 30 witnesses, or so, who came forward after they saw their friends and children and parishioners on television.’ And so I felt very confident she’d walk away. She walked away, and she did say that the stories had inconsistencies.”
To be clear, Winfrey has said she “unequivocally” believes the women in the documentary and that she “did not pull out because of” Simmons.
“This is not a victory for Russell,” she said in a statement after announcing her exit in January. “I cannot be silenced by a Russell Simmons after all I’ve been through. ... I stand with the women. I support the women. And I do hope people will see the film.”
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