Oprah Winfrey has backed out of a documentary aimed at Russell Simmons. Oprah was initially slated to serves as executive producer for an untitled documentary that centers around a former music executive who struggles with whether to go public with her story of alleged assault and abuse by Simmons, according to Deadline.
“I have decided that I will no longer be the executive producer on The Untitled Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Documentary and it will not air on Apple TV+,” Oprah said in a statement. “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.”
Oprah faced a backlash once it was announced that she would be involved in the film.
In an Instagram post from December 2019, Simmons shared his thoughts and wrote an open letter to Oprah.
“Dearest Oprah, you have been a shining light to my family and my community,” Simmons shared on his social media. “Contributing so much to my life that I couldn’t list a fraction of it in this blog. I have 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 documentary. 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 8,000 or 14,000 like Warren Beatty or Wilt Chamberlain, but still an insane number. So many that some could reinterpret or reimagine a different recollection of the same experiences.”
He continued: “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 three-hour lie detector tests (taken for my daughters), that these stories have been passed on by CNN, NBC, Buzzfeed, NY Post, 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.’..Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money…I’ve never been violent or forced myself on anyone.”
The documentary will be shown on Jan. 25 at the Sundance Film Festival.