On Tuesday, HBO Max announced it would proceed with airing a controversial documentary, “On the Record,” about alleged sexual misconduct by Def Jam founder Russell Simmons.
The network has repeatedly declined to answer questions about the film, including why Oprah Winfrey abruptly walked away from the documentary that features three women — Sheri Sher, Drew Dixon and Sil Lai Abrams.
Two network spokespersons, Raina Falcon and Jori Arancio, both declined repeated requests made by the Black Press for comment.
Winfrey has said, among other things, that she wasn’t comfortable with the documentary and that it needed work.
“There were too many inconsistencies in Drew Dixon’s story,” Winfrey said.
It was discovered that the lead in the movie, Dixon, has previously made five separate accusations of sexual assault against men including her own father and uncle and music mogul L.A. Reid.
In a yearslong investigation, the Black Press learned that before bowing out, Winfrey had an ongoing dialogue with Simmons. The music maven provided the media mogul with a list of more than two dozen individuals whom he said could back his story of innocence.
HBO has not said why they’ve chosen to ignore Simmons’ input in a documentary about him.
Among the witnesses presented by Simmons were former Def Jam executives and an intern who worked for Dixon.
“While I take no sides in the accusations, I do have an opinion as well as an opposing view with Dixon’s statements,” said the intern, who worked for Dixon at age 17.
Dixon had told BuzzFeed that she never went to Simmons’ home alone.
It was that statement that prompted the intern to write Winfrey, who also discovered that Dixon regularly visited Simmons’ home alone despite not having any official business to conduct with the music icon.
Winfrey didn’t return multiple requests from the Black Press seeking comment.
“I was made by Dixon to wait downstairs when she went up alone to see Russell Simmons, or she would take a care service and have the driver take me back to my destination,” the intern wrote in a letter to Winfrey. “At no point was I ever personally introduced to him as Drew’s intern. On one occasion, she mentioned that Russell didn’t like having people come with her to his home and that was why I could not accompany her upstairs to his apartment.
“At no time did Drew Dixon seem apprehensive or afraid about going to his home and was instead very eager to go to his house to showcase a CD or give him a personal update on her projects,” the intern wrote. “She would also go to his home during the day for work-related issues and later return to the office. At no time did I ever witness her return to the office upset, angry, or with a changed demeanor.”
Sheri Sher, who also goes by Sheri Hines, also published a book in which she had previously denied that the main character — an individual she claimed raped her — was about Simmons.
She dedicated the book to Simmons and Grandmaster Flash.
Those who worked with Sher and Simmons said the two had a relationship that ended amicably. One person said Sher “would have whupped Russell’s ass if he tried to rape her.”
There were multiple questions raised about Sher’s timeline regarding the once-shuttered Diplomat Hotel in Manhattan and even her repeated changing of the dates, years and her age.
Abrams, another accuser whose story is chronicled in the film, wrote in her book that she was “In no state to recall the events” in which she alleged to have occurred.
Carmen Ashurst, a former Def Jam president, said that Abrams confided in her that she had slept with Simmons one afternoon, but he failed to take her out on the town. This, Ashurst said, angered Abrams.
In an affidavit, Ashurst said she was “absolutely sure” that Abrams wasn’t truthful. Abrams has also accused former “Extra” host AJ Calloway of sexual assault.
Ashurst said Abrams told her that she was “sick of men using her for sex.” Abrams had said that before her sexual encounter with Simmons, she had asked to be taken home, but Simmons’ driver, drove her to the mogul’s home against her will.
“To be clear, I have never driven anyone to any location against their will,” Kenneth Lee, who was Simmons’ driver, said in an affidavit. “If a passenger told me that she or he wanted to go home, I would have taken that person home without exception and regardless of any instruction from Mr. Simmons or anyone else. Mr. Simmons never instructed me to take anyone somewhere against her or his will,” Lee wrote.
Abrams has also claimed that Simmons apologized for sexually assaulting her. Simmons passed a three-hour polygraph test that was specifically about whether he had apologized to Abrams or anyone else for attacking them.
Despite granting other media interviews, Dixon, Sher and Abrams have all repeatedly denied interview requests from the Black Press.
Simmons has also declined comment, but through a spokesperson has denied all of the accusations.
“I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society,” Simmons wrote on Instagram. “I have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. I am here to help support a necessary shift in power and consciousness. Let us get to work in uplifting humanity and put this moment and old narrative behind us.”
HBO Max said it plans to air the “On the Record” documentary next month.