Katie Rost defends ex Russell Simmons amid sexual abuse allegations
Former “Real Housewives of Potomac” star Katie Rost — a self-proclaimed #MeToo survivor — is coming to ex-boyfriend Russell Simmons‘ defense as he faces rape and sexual misconduct allegations.
“I did want to offer a different point of view because sometimes I think it’s a pile on,” she recently told Page Six.
A new documentary called “On the Record” that is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday will reportedly highlight some of his accusers’ stories. Russell, 62, has “vehemently” denied all the allegations, telling The New York Times in December 2017, “These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual. I have enormous respect for the women’s movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power.”
Rost, 40, said she first met Russell in 2002 when his then-wife Kimora Lee Simmons hired her to model for her Baby Phat clothing line when she was 22 years old.
Prior to the booking, Rost said she heard Russell “had a reputation” from other models and executives at her agency, Click Model Management, who allegedly gave her a “warning.” A rep for Click Model Management declined to comment.
However, Rost said her relationship with Russell began as platonic because he was married. “He was really sweet and very nice, but I was more focused on [Kimora],” she said.
Over the years, Rost and Russell maintained a friendship, but when Kimora and Russell divorced in 2009, their relationship became romantic.
“We took a few vacations together and spent some time getting to know each other a little bit more,” Rost said. “It wasn’t exclusive. He had other girlfriends.”
While they were dating in 2009, Russell offered Rost, who was then 30 years old, a position at Global Grind, his hip-hop-focused entertainment news website. Rost had studied journalism at Boston University and accepted the opportunity.
The couple was able to balance a working and sexual relationship for about six months but eventually broke up when Rost discovered Russell was seeing other women. Rost recalled walking into his Manhattan home and discovering model Julie Henderson, who had just been named Sports Illustrated Model of the Year, there.
“I was, like, ‘Oh, this is not going to work,’” Rost said. “I just didn’t really see myself with someone that old, and he was still a playboy and a player.”
After their breakup, Rost and Russell remained friends and still speak about three to four times a year.
However, they communicated more regularly was when Rost was dealing with a divorce and custody battle in 2016. Rost accused her ex-husband James Orsini of abuse, and she said Russell encouraged her to share her story with the world. Orsini has vehemently denied any allegations of abuse.
“When I was going through all of that crap and all of the pain with coming forward as a survivor, Russell so strongly [said] to me, ‘Katie, you need to write about these things. You have to tell everyone what happened with this pain of your life,’” she said. “He was such a strong voice that it sort of took my breath away reading that he might go down in flames.”
A year later, in December 2017, Drew Dixon, Toni Sallie, Tina Baker, and Sherri Hines came forward to accuse the music mogul of rape in the 1980s. Several other women have also accused Russell of sexual assault. Russell has denied the allegations.
In April 2018, a judge threw out a $5 million lawsuit filed by filmmaker Jennifer Jarosik, who alleged that Simmons raped her in 2016.
In November 2018, Rost said Russell called her to ask her whether she had ever felt he was inappropriate with her.
“It seemed like he wanted to understand and I think that he still does,” she said. “I guess that’s something that struck me as very different than all of these other men that are going through this stuff. I don’t think Bill Cosby ever went, ‘Oh, wow tell me about what I’ve done.’ Or that Harvey Weinstein has been like, ‘Clarify for me how I was disruptive or did something horrible to your spirit.’”
Rost reassured Russell that she never felt like he crossed a line, to which he allegedly responded, “I feel like you’re giving me a pass. I’m not the greatest guy. I haven’t done everything right, and I’m really trying to figure out who I really am.”
Rost believes her feelings about some of the allegations are “complicated” because of her own personal experience with the music executive.
“If you’re an overly sexual person or someone who comes on to people … I don’t think that means that you are a predator,” she explained. “I just wanted to say that I never felt that way about him. I did always feel like he was a womanizer — that he was someone who was going to come on to women, let you know that he wanted you — but there was never any aggressive or even using like a power position type of thing over, at least, me for my situation.”
On Jan. 18, Oprah Winfrey revealed she was backing out of producing “On the Record.”
Although the media mogul said Russell “attempted to pressure” her through social media and behind the scenes, Winfrey — who was a victim of childhood sexual abuse growing up — said she did not exit the project for that reason, but rather because she felt she needed more time to “get it right” because of some “inconsistencies.”
Winfrey, 65, told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday, “This is not a victory for Russell, and 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 Russell Simmons after all I’ve been through. … [It’s] ridiculous to think that I could be intimidated by Russell Simmons.”
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#Repost @unclerush when documentary was announced.. Dearest OPRAH,you have been a shining light to my family and my community. Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog.Ihave given you the gift of meditation and the groundbreaking book”THE POWER OF NOW “we bonded to say the least. This is why it’s so troubling that you choose me to single out in your recent documentry. 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. Not 8 or 14 thousand like warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain, but still an embarrassing number. So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences. Your doc is focused on 3 hand chosen women. I have refused to get in the mud with any accusers, but let’s acknowledge what i have shared. I have taken and passed nine 3-hour lie detector tests (taken for my daughters), that these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, BUZZFEED, NY POST, NY MAG, AND OTHERS. Now that you have reviewed the facts and you SHOULD have learned what I know; that these stories are UNUSABLE and that “hurt people hurt people”. Today I received a call from an old girlfriend from the early 1980s which means that they are using my words/evidence against me and their COMMITMENT/ (all of the claims are 25 to 40 years old) It is impossible to prove what happened 40 years ago, but in my case PROOF EXISTS of what didn’t happen, mostly signed letters from their own parents, siblings, roommates, band members, interns, and in the case of 2 of your 3 accusers,their own words in their books. Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money. … In closing, I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society, i have even been unconsciously callous , but i have never been violent or forced myself on anyone. Still I am here to help support a necessary shift in power and consciousness. Let us get to work on uplifting humanity and put this moment and old narrative behind us Love you
In response to Winfrey’s statements, Russell’s publicist told us, “If defending himself against terrible accusations is considered intimidation then there would be no justice. Witnesses and family members were intimidated, for expressing their views against these allegations. The film narrative has been rejected by responsible media outlets because of fatal inaccuracies, omissions and contradictions from written accounts and sworn testimony which show Russell Simmons was incapable of, being violent toward women with whom he had ongoing highly visible romantic relationships from nearly 40 years back.”
Russell also issued a separate statement to Page Six, saying:
“I have issued countless detailed denials of the false accusations against me, including pages of sworn witness testimony including family members, clergy, journalists and mutual friends who were present at every stage. These denials have been validated by my passing 9 prosecution- grade lie detector tests. I have also provided sworn statements and pointed out fatal flaws and inconsistencies in written accounts, some published in their own books, to reputable media organizations which have acted responsibly.
I have admitted to being a massively unconscious “playboy” which today is appropriately titled “womanizer”. Continuing to live my life honorably as an open book for decades, devoid of any kind of violence against anyone, as has been documented and examined in detail worldwide since the very early days of hip hop, which is my life’s testimony and work. What I won’t do is engage in a shoot-out of attacks and counter-attacks. The social change from today’s activism is more important to the world my daughters will inherit than any dirt from false accusations from nearly 40 years ago.
My life as an entrepreneur, yogi and fighter for new and diverse voices, as well as the faith placed in my work by millions around the world, has been a force for good and will continue to be as long as I’m able to serve the communities I love and cherish.”
Rost said Russell reached out to her for support amid the controversy over the release of the documentary.
“I believe people who have come forward with their experience and I think that it’s really important to listen to what they have to say and that always has to be done because there’s so much evidence that enough of that environment is there that there’s got to be a lot of truth to it,” she said. “I don’t know if all the details are there and I know that there are people that take advantage of these kinds of situations, but I don’t think that that’s what happens most of the time.”
Rost reiterated Russell is a “womanizer” and that there was “obviously some sort of behavior that was inappropriate or harmed people,” but added, “He didn’t do that to me at all.”
“On the Record” will debut on Jan. 25 at the Sundance Film Festival.
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