Oprah Winfrey severs ties with documentary featuring alleged Russell Simmons survivors

The entertainment mogul said she still believes the survivors, however, cites creative differences as the reason for her sudden departure

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Oprah Winfrey has decided to distance herself from the controversial documentary about the sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards)

Oprah Winfrey announced that she will no longer serve as an executive producer of the documentary featuring women who have accused Russell Simmons of sexual harassment.  

The entertainment mogul made this decision just two weeks before the untitled project created by filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick was set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was in the process of being released on Apple TV Plus under the deal Winfrey had with the company, Variety reports.

“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 posted to the site on Thursday. “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.”

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Not much is revealed about the content of the documentary involving Simmons’ survivors, but Winfrey said she will continue to support the survivors.

Ziering and Kirby will now have to look for new distribution and the acclaimed filmmakers expressed their disappointment surrounding her decision. 

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,” Ziering and Kirby said. “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.”

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Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the TIME’S UP Foundation released a statement soon after the news that “TIME’S UP will continue to support the survivors of Russell Simmons and will continue to fight to make sure that black women’s voices will continue to be heard. 

“We support Oprah Winfrey in maintaining that the victims’ stories deserve to be heard on their own terms,” Tchen mentioned in the statement. “Too often, black women are silenced, disbelieved, or even vilified when they speak out. On top of that, for years, these women have been attacked by powerful forces surrounding Russell Simmons – illustrating how difficult it is to speak out against powerful men. And how important it is for powerful men to be held accountable for their actions.”