Oprah Winfrey took her name off a documentary detailing sexual abuse allegations against Russell Simmons, but says her decision is “not a victory lap” for the hip-hop mogul.
Winfrey visited CBS This Morning Tuesday to promote her new book club selection, but the hot topic turned out to be her exit from the upcoming film titled On the Record.
Related Story: Oprah Says Russell Simmons Pressured Her to Abandon Sex Abuse Doc
Asked why she pulled her name off the movie ahead of its Jan. 25 debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Winfrey said she was troubled by “inconsistencies” in the film, not by pressure from Simmons, who has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.
“This is not a victory for Russell,” Winfrey stated. “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 a Russell Simmons after all I’ve been through.”
@Oprah says her decision to step away from Russell Simmons documentary is "not a victory" for him.
"I cannot be silenced by a Russell Simmons after all I've been through." https://t.co/tXFnz5JJPn pic.twitter.com/gD8t6r6Ku1
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) January 21, 2020
Winfrey was an executive producer on the doc, but said she wanted filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering to pull the movie from Sundance after new information surfaced. She explained that she asked them to add more women’s voices, or she would take her name off the movie.
“I don’t care about awards — I just care about getting it right, and I think there’s some inconsistencies in the stories that we need to look at,” Winfrey recalled telling the filmmakers. “I wanted the context of the story to be broadened, I wanted more women brought into the story.”
The filmmakers apparently disagreed, prompting Winfrey’s exit. The film was also pulled from AppleTV+, where it had been scheduled to stream.
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Winfrey said she learned a valuable lesson from the experience.
“As an executive producer, if I say ‘I want changes,’ usually those are done. So what this has taught me is don’t put your name on anything that you don’t have creative control over,” she said.
The filmmakers have said they were blindsided by Winfrey’s decision and called the situation “very disappointing and upsetting.” Despite backing out of the documentary, Winfrey said she supports the accusers.
“I have lived #MeToo since I was 9 years old, and was raped at 9, sexually assaulted from 9 to 14, and then raped again at 14,” she said. “And nothing is harder than standing up for yourself when you’re 14 and not being believed, and I was not believed by my own family. So I stand in support of these women. I believe them.”