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Oprah Winfrey Details Her Decision to Withdraw From Russell Simmons Film

by Ace Damon
Oprah Winfrey Details Her Decision to Withdraw From Russell Simmons Film

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Oprah Winfrey said on Friday that Russell Simmons tried to pressure her about her involvement with a documentary in which several women detail allegations of sexual abuse against the rap mogul, but her efforts were not what prompted her to leave the project.

"He came several times and tried to pressure me," Winfrey told the Associated Press through a spokesman on Friday. It was nothing that Simmons said that prompted Winfrey to withdraw from the movie "On the Record", according to Winfrey, but inconsistencies in the story of one of Simmons' accusers, Drew Dixon, that she felt needed to be addressed.

Winfrey said she wanted to postpone the release of the film, which is scheduled to open on January 25 at the Sundance Film Festival, but that view was not shared by the film's directors.

Winfrey herself spoke openly of sexual abuse. She said on Friday that she still believes in Dixon and other women in the film, but that more reporting is needed. On the Record directors Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering said they had ample evidence against Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings.

Winfrey announced that she was stepping down as executive producer on January 10, saying that more work was needed and that the filmmakers "were not aligned" in their "creative vision". The film's producers, Impact Partners, said in a statement earlier this week. that the film was "ready for Sundance".

“We always defend the voices of those who have been unduly silenced. The women in this film made a great sacrifice by performing to tell their stories in their own words. We are honored to support them, ”says the Impact statement. "We are firmly behind the work of the intrepid filmmakers who continue to break new ground, promoting important stories in the public interest."

The AP does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Dixon has told his story publicly, including on CBS This Morning earlier this week.

Communications between Winfrey and Simmons and their concerns about Dixon's story were first reported by The New York Times.

Simmons denied any wrongdoing. His representative did not immediately comment on an AP inquiry on Friday.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Friday, Winfrey disputed the claims of the creators of "On the Record" that she gave them little warning before the January 10 announcement. In an article published early Friday, Dick and Ziering said The Hollywood Reporter that they were only given 20 minutes in advance before Winfrey issued his statement.

"It was very disappointing and disturbing," Ziering told The Hollywood Reporter. “We were concerned about the survivors and what the hell that would do to them. That was our first thought. & # 39; Oh my God. Let's tell everyone and find out. ""

Winfrey told the AP that Dick and Ziering were well aware of their intentions. She said she raised concerns last month about the film needing more work. According to Winfrey, she told Dick and Ziering that "new information" made her see gaps that "she thought should be filled" and that it was better to "rest".

"They said they would stay with me or without me," Winfrey told the AP. She said the conclusion is that "the film is not ready".

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