Oprah Cuts Ties With #MeToo Documentary Focused On Russell Simmons
When claims of sexual misconduct against Russell Simmons were spotlighted in 2017, people started to distance themselves from the music mogul. As accusations mounted, the NYPD launched an investigation, lawsuits were filed and dropped, and this past December, Oprah Winfrey signed on to produce a documentary featuring one of Simmons’ most vocal accusers. She has now changed course.
Oprah drops out as executive producer for #MeToo project
Deadline was among the first to report that the media maven announced she’s leaving the Simmons documentary as a producer and is taking it off the Apple TV+ roster. Through a statement, Winfrey emphasized that her decision is due to creative differences and she still supports all victims of sexual assault and abuse:
“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+. 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. Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are talented filmmakers. I have great respect for 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.”
This also is not an indication of what she thinks of Simmons, as Winfrey even pulled his contributions to her book, The Wisdom of Sundays, after rape allegations first surfaced. Newer editions have his sections removed.
How did documentarians Ziering and Dick respond?
The filmmaking team behind the untitled project were clear that it will still premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23. The documentary digs into the story of music executive Drew Dixon, who details her experiences with men in the music industry, including Russell Simmons.
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering had this to say about Oprah’s withdrawal:
“Revealing hard truths is never easy, and the women in our documentary are all showing extraordinary strength and courage by raising their voices to address sexual abuse in the music industry. While we are disappointed that Oprah Winfrey is no longer an Executive Producer on the project, we are gratified that Winfrey has unequivocally said she believes and supports the survivors in the film.”
More than one dozen women have accused Simmons of sexual misconduct, and during an interview with BuzzFeed News, Dixon spoke about multiple incidents of harassment and a rape by Simmons.
50 Cent and Simmons questioned Oprah for being involved
After news broke in December 2019 that Winfrey would be executive producing the doc, Simmons posted a lengthy statement on Instagram aimed at Oprah. In it, he cited that they have a bond and in terms of the allegations against him, he admits he had illicit affairs. He also added that he’s taken nine lie detector tests and that:
“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. I have refused to get in the mud with any accusers, but let’s acknowledge what I have shared…
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…”
In support of Simmons, 50 Cent threw his thoughts out on Instagram, saying Oprah seems to only go after black men and not others like Harvey Weinstein.
Since Winfrey has decided to back out of the documentary, 50 Cent took to Twitter to thank her for pulling out and offered his future services. He followed up by saying he supports the #MeToo movement but not this project.
With no distribution through Apple TV+, it is unclear how the unnamed documentary will be made available to the public after its showing at Sundance.