KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
And now new allegations against another high-profile man. Last night, eight more women came forward to accuse hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of sexual assault and misconduct. This follows allegations from two other women which were made public last month. Simmons cofounded Def Jam Recordings, the label that's often credited with taking hip-hop to the mainstream. His empire expanded to include comedy, fashion and yoga. With us to talk about this is NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas. Hey there.
ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Hi, Kelly.
MCEVERS: So just tell us about these new allegations.
TSIOULCAS: Well, last night in very quick succession, two newspapers - The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times - published a total of eight new allegations against Russell Simmons. And all these incidents reportedly took place between the 1980s and 2014. And four of the women who have now come forward alleged that Simmons raped them. The other four women accuse Simmons of various kinds of sexual assault and misconduct.
MCEVERS: So where did this happen according to the women?
TSIOULCAS: Well, they say that some of the situations involved his businesses, and some were just social situations. Two of the women worked at Def Jam. Two more were employees of Tantris, which is a yoga studio Simmons owns in West Hollywood. One was an aspiring musician. And at the time, Russell Simmons was her manager. And another was a music journalist who says she had previously dated him before this encounter. One was a misuse that he had just booked, and another was a stranger who says she just met him at Art Basel in Miami Beach and that he tricked her into going with him to his hotel room. So it's really a mix.
MCEVERS: Has Simmons responded to these accusations?
TSIOULCAS: Last month, Kelly, he issued a seemingly very heartfelt statement. He said that it was time for him to step back and listen. And he actually stepped down from his businesses. But last night, he released another statement that seemed really almost combative. And he wrote in all-caps, I have never had a relationship that was not consensual or lawful ever. And at that point, he also alleged that some of the women may have had financial reasons to come forward.
This morning, Simmons followed up again with a new message in which he said he was innocent of all rape charges. And he said something that I found very interesting that seems almost completely counter to what he had said last month. He said today, I will focus on the, quote, "original sin," unquote. And that was referring to the first woman who came forward in November, a former model named Keri Claussen Khalighi. She claimed last month that Simmons sexually assaulted her when she was 17 years old. And today Simmons called all of these accusations which now come from 10 different women a, quote, "insane pile-on," unquote.
MCEVERS: What was it like to be a woman in this industry when somebody like Simmons was at his peak?
TSIOULCAS: Well, Russell Simmons, Kelly, was undoubtedly really one of a very small handful of men who could truly make or break careers in hip-hop and urban music. And I don't mean just for musicians. I mean for anyone who wanted to work in the industry at all. And as his businesses expanded, his reach became even bigger. He had all kinds of media holdings, including the very popular HBO series "Def Comedy Jam." And he had fashion labels as well as music. So Russell Simmons was a man who had built up enormous power and privilege. And it was a world that really had very little space for women at all and particularly women of color.
MCEVERS: NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas, thank you so much.
TSIOULCAS: Thanks for having me, Kelly.
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