Oprah Winfrey is pushing back at chatter that she stepped away from an upcoming documentary focusing on sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons is any kind of a win for the music mogul.
On Tuesday, while speaking with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, Winfrey pointed out that her decision to no longer be an executive producer on the film was not about Simmons at all.
“This is not a victory for Russell,” she said. “I unequivocally say that I did not pull out because of Russell. This is not a victory lap for him. I cannot be silenced by a Russell Simmons after all I’ve been through.”
Winfrey said although she believes the women who have accused Simmons and thinks their voices “deserve to be heard,” unheeded concerns that she expressed to the filmmakers are what really led to her “hard decision” to step away and safeguard her integrity.
“I had said to them, ‘Houston, I think we have a problem here’ because new information had come forward,” she said, explaining why she requested they pull out of the Sundance Film Festival where the documentary is expected to premiere on January 25. And her stance was clear: either they postpone the release to do more vetting or take her name off the project entirely.
“I don’t care about awards — I just care about getting it right, and I think there’s some inconsistencies in the stories that we need to look at,” Winfrey said. “I wanted the context of the story to be broadened, I wanted more women brought into the story.”
Winfrey recalled that sexual assault is something she herself has survived.
“I have lived MeToo since I was 9 years old, and was raped at 9, sexually assaulted from 9 to 14, and then raped again at 14,” she recalled matter-of-factly. “And nothing is harder than standing up for yourself when you’re 14 and not being believed, and I was not believed by my own family. So I stand in support of these women. I believe them.”