Writer/activist Sil Lai Abrams is sharing her own account of how NBC allegedly killed a story of her claims of sexual assault against Russell Simmons and A.J. Calloway.
In a piece for the Daily Beast published online Monday, Abrams writes that she has "been struck by the company’s insistence that Ronan (Farrow) didn’t have the Harvey Weinstein story in the bag. I don’t believe a word of what it says because in 2018, the network killed my #MeToo story that was being reported by MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid."
Abrams says she informed Reid in November 2017 of her alleged 1994 rape by Russell Simmons and alleged sexual assault at the hands of A.J. Calloway, who parted ways with entertainment show "Extra" in the summer, after claims of Calloway’s conduct were investigated.
Abrams allegations were published by The Hollywood Reporter in June 2018. Simmons has denied all accusations of non-consensual sex, and responded to Abrams' allegations via his attorney Patty Glaser, who told THR that Simmons "passed a lie detector test answering 'No' to questions about whether he had assaulted, raped or forced anyone to have sex, including Ms. Abrams." In response to the story, an attorney representing Calloway told THR that Abrams did bring a case against Calloway, but the allegations were false.
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Abrams says she filmed an interview with Reid in January 2018 to air in the middle of the month on NBC. The day before the interview was supposedly to air, Abrams says Reid communicated to her "Russell Simmons’ attorney had gone ballistic and NBC was not going to air the segment…She assured me the story wasn’t dead, but that NBC simply needed more vetting done in order to feel comfortable with moving forward."
"Over the next several months, NBC put me through an elaborate and bizarre vetting process. I provided legal documentation, hospital bills, and over a dozen corroborating witnesses. Still, they stonewalled," Abrams writes. "I asked (Reid) repeatedly if NBC was going to do to her what it did to Ronan, and she said that she didn’t think so. We both agreed that it would reflect very poorly if word got out that the network had suppressed yet another story of alleged sexual assault."
Abrams says in February, she was told by Reid the network was “demanding that I do all of this additional reporting to meet a legal and standards review.”
Later, Abrams said she asked Reid if she felt the story were going to be killed. Per Abrams, Reid responded: " 'We have enough that we have satisfied the standards side, but this is now in the hands of lawyers who have to determine the likelihood of a lawsuit by two people now, and what is the likelihood that we will prevail.' She added, 'This has now gone up past the attorneys I deal with to the head of NBCUniversal’s lawyers. I’ve never been through anything like this.' ”
Abrams said after an additional two months "it became clear" her interview would not air. "The last time I spoke with Joy was on April 6, 2018, when she called to tell me that senior management had stopped responding to her inquiries about her piece on me. She said I should take the story elsewhere."
Abrams also highlights the impact of the allegedly killed stories.
"NBC put women’s lives at risk," she asserts. "This is one of the darkest of NBC’s sins. By refusing to stand by their hard-working reporters’ work, it knowingly placed members of the public in harm’s way. By discrediting and minimizing the strength of allegations, NBC is complicit in maintaining structures of gender inequality and rape culture. The bottom line is this: it kept dangerous men from being held accountable."
USA TODAY has reached out a rep for Simmons for comment.
A spokesperson for NBC directed USA TODAY to a statement the company released to THR last year: "When MSNBC pursues any investigative story our mission is always to be as thorough as we can, to scrutinize sources and corroborate information before we report. Anything else falls short of our journalistic standards."
"Investigative reports like these take time, and not surprisingly, sometimes journalists get frustrated as well," Reid said in a statement to the outlet. "I inappropriately shared that frustration privately with Sil Lai. I completely respect MSNBC's standards and practices. Meticulous research to get the facts right was the only option, especially given the seriousness of the allegations."
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Contributing: Maeve McDermott and The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBC put women’s lives at risk: Russell Simmons accuser Sil Lai Abrams