Oprah Winfrey had a change of heart. Just one month after announcing her involvement in a documentary on one of Russell Simmons’ sexual assault accusers, the TV mogul hoped off the production team and pulled the film from the Apple TV+ lineup.
“I have decided that I will no longer be executive producer on The Untitled Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Documentary and it will not air on Apple TV+,” Winfrey said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday (Jan. 10). “First and foremost, I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women. Their stories deserve to be told and heard. In my opinion, there is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured and it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision.”
The 65-year-old former talk show host added that Dick and Ziering are “talented filmmakers,” and that she respects their mission. “But given the filmmakers’ desire to premiere the film at the Sundance Film Festival before I believe it is complete, I feel it’s best to step aside. I will be working with Time’s Up to support the victims and those impacted by abuse and sexual harassment.”
Winfrey’s announcement comes weeks after 50 Cent claimed she disproportionately targeted black men accused of sexual misconduct and assault.
Simmons penned an open letter to Winfrey writing in part, “We bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent [documentary].”
The Def Jam Records founder says that he passed numerous lie detector tests to prove his innocence. “Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that ‘hurt people hurt people,’” he wrote to Winfrey.
The documentary follows music exec Drew Dixon, a onetime Def Jam exec, who worked with The Notorious B.I.G., Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, 2Pac, Carlos Santana and Pharrell Williams, among others. She is one of three women who came out with rape and sexual harassment accusations against Simmons in 2017.
Simmons has repeatedly denied all allegations of sexual assault. Read his full letter to Winfrey below.
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Dearest OPRAH,you have been a shining light to my family and my community. Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog.Ihave given you the gift of meditation and the groundbreaking book”THE POWER OF NOW “we bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentry. I have already admitted to being a playboy more (appropriately titled today “womanizer”) sleeping with and putting myself in more compromising situations than almost any man I know. Not 8 or 14 thousand like Warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain, but still an embarrassing number. So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences. Please note that ur producers said that this upcoming doc was to focus ONLY on 3 hand chosen women. 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 detector tests (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; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that “hurt people hurt people”. Today I received a call from an old girlfriend from the early 1980s which means that they are using my words/evidence against me and their COMMITMENT/ (all of the claims are 25 to 40 years old) It is impossible to prove what happened 40 years ago, but in my case proof exists of what didn’t happen, mostly signed letters from their own parents, siblings, roommates, band members, interns, and in the case of 2 of your 3 accusers,their own words in their books. Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money. … In closing, I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society, but i have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. Still I am here to help support a necessary shift in power and consciousness. Let us get to work on uplifting humanity and put this moment and old narrative behind us