*Less than two weeks after Russell Simmons, 60, was accused by a former fashion model and a screenwriter of sexual assault — five more women have “disclosed new stories about him, including an alleged rape,” the L.A. Times reports.
As noted by the publication, over the last decade, Simmons has transformed himself into a wellness and yoga guru — publishing books about meditation and veganism, and founding his West Hollywood yoga studio Tantris. But former general manager Karen Russell believes he was taking advantage of his position to pursue women at the studio.
“Not only are you a multimillionaire, now you claim to be a teacher for yoga, you create and open up a sacred space. That’s a whole ’nother level,” she said. “I witnessed this type of behavior condoned by staff.”
According to actress Natashia Williams-Blach, who appeared in a Simmons-produced film, “How to Be a Player,” back in 1996, after taking her to a yoga class, Simmons “attempted to force her to perform oral sex.”
Massage therapist Erin Beattie also claims that while giving Simmons a massage at a Seattle hotel in 2005, he exposed himself and asked her to touch his penis. She also revealed how he boasted of the ease with which he could sell yoga DVDs to the masses, whom he called “sheep.
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On Wednesday, two new reports broke bringing the total number of women accusing Simmons of sexual misconduct and rape to ten, The Root reports.
Simmons, the co-founder of record label Def Jam Recordings, issued the following response to these “hurtful” new claims against him:
I vehemently deny all these allegations. These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual.
I am blessed to have shared extraordinary relationships, whether through work or love, with many great women; and I have enormous respect for the women’s movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power. I am devastated by any reason I may have given to anyone to say or think of me in the ways that are currently being described. In recent weeks, some former business, creative and romantic partners have aired grievances as claims I categorically reject. In some of these instances, financial motives and direct contradictory witness testimony has been supplied to the media, which has been completely left out of stories. In the last few days, one woman attempted to extort me for $500,000 only to recant her ridiculous claim. The current allegations sent to me by the New York Times range from the patently untrue to the frivolous and hurtful. The presumption of innocent until proven guilty must not be replaced by “Guilty by Accusation”
I have already apologized for the instances of thoughtlessness in my consensual relations. I have separated myself from my businesses and charities in order to not become a distraction. I have re-dedicated myself to spiritual learning, healing and working on behalf of the communities to which I have devoted my life. I have accepted that I can and should get dirt on my sleeves if it means witnessing the birth of a new consciousness about women. What I will not accept is responsibility for what I have not done. I have conducted my life with a message of peace and love. Although I have been candid about how I have lived in books and interviews detailing my flaws, I will relentlessly fight against any untruthful character assassination that paints me as a man of violence.
As previously reported, Russell Simmons announced on Nov. 30 that he would “step aside” from his businesses after screenwriter Jenny Lumet accused him of sexual assault.