In an explosive piece published by The Hollywood Reporter, author and activist Sil Lai Abrams reveals how NBC attempted to bury rape allegations against Russell Simmons and ‘Extra’ host A.J. Calloway.
Abrams, 47, is an author and domestic-violence activist who, like many accusers in the hectic aftermath of major exposes about Harvey Weinstein, felt an urgent need to speak out. She had already told her own story of not one but two alleged sexual assaults — 12 years apart — in her 2007 book, No More Drama. But she had not dared to use real names.
Then everything changed. Abrams felt emboldened by the #MeToo movement to reveal that “Ronald,” described in the book as “well known for only dating models and for his hard-partying lifestyle funded by his very successful record label,” was Russell Simmons, who Abrams alleges raped her in 1994. “Well-spoken B-list celebrity Ray,” who Abrams says assaulted her in 2006, was A.J. Calloway, a host on the entertainment show Extra, which is produced by Warner Bros. and airs in major markets on NBC owned-and-operated stations. Both men deny the allegations.
Events unfolded as Abrams had predicted: The Ratner stories were soon followed by claims against his close friend, Simmons. On Nov. 19, model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons, now 60, of assaulting her in 1991, when she was 17, while Ratner looked on. Writer Jenny Lumet then wrote a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter detailing her own allegations of sexual abuse by Simmons, after which he stepped down from his various businesses. At this point, more than a dozen women have accused Simmons of rape or assault.
By the time Khalighi came forward, Abrams had already made contact with a journalist. On Nov. 2 — the day after the Ratner allegations were published — Abrams approached MSNBC host Joy Reid, a professional acquaintance who Abrams knew because she had been a guest on Reid’s show speaking about domestic violence.
“I needed to tell my story, to say his name out loud, to let people know what he had done to me,” Abrams says. And she had allegations not just about Simmons but about Calloway, which she believed would dispel “this one-and-done idea of assault.” Many people experience more than one attack in their lives, she explains, but “it’s just not spoken of.”
Reid started to dig into the story. In mid-December, MSNBC’s standards and legal departments began putting Abrams through a grinding vetting process. She responded to their requests, providing documents from years earlier, including several court orders issued in New York against Calloway. She supplied contact information for sources who could verify aspects of her past, including some who had been told of the alleged assaults in the immediate aftermath.
In January, Reid taped an on-camera interview with Abrams at MSNBC’s New York studio. But a process that had begun in December dragged on frustratingly for weeks and then months. At times, Reid texted or emailed Abrams about her sense that the network was “slow walking” the story with “stupid” requests. Finally, in April, Abrams says Reid told her that the network was no longer responding to her queries as to when the segment might air.
You can read more about Sil’s shocking allegations NBC’s alleged cover-up here.