Journalist Sil Lai Abrams Accuses Russell Simmons And A.J. Calloway Of Sexual Assault
Update: 11:42 AM EST (June 29, 2018) - Russell Simmon’s attorney has issued the following statement on behalf of the entrepreneur regarding the latest accusations and editorial:
“The Hollywood Reporter published an article despite material facts and witness statements shared with them that contradict Ms. Abrams’ account, all of which were omitted from the story. These documents include a declaration, sworn under oath, by someone who spoke with Ms. Abrams the day after her sexual encounter with Mr. Simmons and described it as consensual.
Ms. Abrams’ account of the evening in her own book also contradicts multiple accusations printed by The Hollywood Reporter. After reporting on Ms. Abrams’ account for nearly a year, including the examination of all the facts, MSNBC and New York magazine declined to pursue the story. NBC said its news department had enlisted seasoned investigative journalists to assist Reid and that certain aspects of the story did not meet its standards. It’s disappointing, to say the least, that THR didn’t adhere to the same standards.”
Author, journalist and activist Sil Lai Abrams has come forward with disturbing allegations of sexual assault against Russell Simmons and Extra co-host A.J. Calloway.
The Hollywood Reporter shared Abrams story Thursday (June 28) as well as the circles she jumped through with executives at NBC, who reportedly derailed her story. Abrams broke down both incidents which happened over ten years apart. She accused Simmons of rape in 1994 and Calloway of assault in 2006. Both stories were retold in her 2007 book, No More Drama: Nine Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough with different names.
Abrams, who previously worked with Simmons and had a brief romance with, says they were hanging out as friends when the incident happened. After a night of drinking and party hopping, she was taken to his home by a driver. While she made it clear she didn’t want to have sex, Simmons (who was sober) reportedly “flipped her onto her stomach, pulled down the bike shorts she was wearing beneath her dress and raped her.” He then told her to leave since a woman he was pursuing was en route to his house.
The incident left her suicidal and depressed. After going sober, she ran into Simmons a few years later. “I’m sorry about what I did. I’m a different person now,” he reportedly told her. Simmons’ camp denied the conversation and the rape. Since last year, Simmons has been accused of sexual assault by over seven women.
While working with Calloway for a charity event she organized, Abrams said Calloway made unwanted advances towards her including pulling out his penis and fondling her breasts.
“She called me and told me about A.J.,” Carol Ingram, a friend of Abrams’ said. “He grabbed her and started kissing her and then he grabbed her hand and started to masturbate.”
Calloway was arrested and charged with claims related to forcible touching and attempted sexual misconduct. Abrams did get an order of protection against Calloway but the case was dropped in 2007.
An attorney for Calloway confirmed the case but denied the allegations. “These decade-old allegations are false,” they said. “They were false when they were first made and are false now. Mr. Calloway fully cooperated with law enforcement from the beginning, denied the allegations, and the case was completely dismissed in November 2007. After the case was dismissed, the court records were sealed as a matter of law and are no longer available.” Calloway was previously known for his hosting BET’s 106 & Park with Free.
Abrams was prepared to go public with her story as early as November 2017 with MSNBC’s Joy Reid. After lengthy reporting and interviews, Reid’s story for MSNBC and New York magazine was vetted profusely with Reid calling out the NBC legal department for “slow-walking the story with idiotic requests.”
But throughout the vetting process, concerns came to light in terms of confirming information and the refusal of witnesses to speak on the record.
In a statement to VIBE, Reid explained why the piece fell apart.
“After roughly three months, our team at MSNBC was far along in our reporting on the allegations against one of the accused men, but unable to confirm significant aspects of the claims related to the second man,” she said.
“This meant that we could not report on either man. The process was clearly frustrating for Sil Lai, particularly once other women publicly accused one of the men. Investigative reports like these take time, and not surprisingly, sometimes journalists get frustrated as well. I inappropriately shared that frustration privately with Sil Lai. I completely respect MSNBC’s standards and practices. Meticulous research to get the facts right was the only option, especially given the seriousness of the allegations.”
A spokesperson from MSNBC also shared a statement about the process. “When MSNBC pursues any investigative story our mission is always to be as thorough as we can, to scrutinize sources and corroborate information before we report. Anything else falls short of our journalistic standards,” the statement reads.
Abrams believes the story was ultimately shelved in April in fear of Simmons and Calloway’s lawyers taking legal action.
The allegations against the parent company bare resemblance to their handling of Billy Bush’s Access Hollywood tape with President Donald Trump and turning away Ronan Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein story. Both stories found platforms on The Washington Post and The New Yorker.
Calloway has not responded to Abrams’ profile.
Read the full story here.