Def Jam founder Russell Simmons and director/producer Brett Ratner have both been accused of sexual misconduct in connection with an incident from 1991, with a then-17-year-old woman accusing Simmons of sexually assaulting her while Ratner stood by and watched. The L.A. Times reported this morning on the account of model Keri Claussen Khalighi, who says she met the two men at a casting call, then went to dinner with them before going back to Simmons’ apartment.
There, Simmons allegedly made several “aggressive sexual advances” toward Khalighi, tearing at her clothes, and eventually coercing her to perform oral sex on him. Meanwhile, she says, Ratner just watched. “I looked over at Brett and said ‘Help me’ and I’ll never forget the look on his face,” she recalled. “In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together.” Khalighi says she took a shower afterward, during which “Simmons walked up behind her in the shower and briefly penetrated her without her consent.”
Simmons—who was already being criticized for his attitude toward harassment and assault today, thanks to a tweet from Terry Crews that showed an email where the mogul asked him to help the man who grabbed Crews’ genitals at a party get his job back—has denied that the sexual encounter between himself and Khalighi was non-consensual. Speaking through his attorney, Ratner backed him up, stating that he didn’t remember the 17-year-old asking for help, and saw no signs of “protest.” The two men are long-time friends, with a reported reputation for mutual partying and womanizing.
Ratner is currently facing his own sexual harassment and assault allegations, as well; he recently stepped back from his duties at Warner Bros. because of those accusations, although—as in this case—he continues to claim that all of the women who have come forward against him are lying.