The hype around On The Record, the documentary highlighting numerous women who have accused Russell Simmons of sexual assault, made its premiere at The Sundance Film Festival. It’s reported that at the conclusion of the film, the audience gave it a standing ovation, but while it was a hit at the festival, one of the women featured in the documentary has come forward to speak out about why Oprah Winfrey was absent.
We’ve previously reported that Oprah was once an executive producer for the documentary, but shortly after that announcement was made, the OWN network mogul shared that she would no longer be working with On The Record‘s filmmakers. There was a movement against Oprah, urging her to remove herself from the project, and she even admitted in an interview that she felt pressured by Russell Simmons who she spoke with directly. However, Oprah insisted that it wasn’t Simmons or social media criticism that caused her to back away. Instead, she said, the filmmakers were moving in a creative direction that she didn’t agree with and she couldn’t have her name on a project that she didn’t believe in.
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Sil Lai Abrams, author and activist, alleges that back in 1994, Simmons raped her. She’s shared her story multiple times, including in a The Hollywood Reporter exposé, and now she’s stepping forward once again for On The Record. “I was not surprised that Oprah pulled out,” Abrams told Deadline. “When I learned that and the news broke accidentally…people put the pieces together and realized that the film was about Russell and Drew and other survivors. I knew there was an army that existed of Michael Jackson fans who were still very angry at her (Oprah) for hosting the Leaving Neverland screening. And so when Russell and 50 Cent did their social media thing, there was a population already existing that was ready to jump on the train and use this film as a way into Ms. Winfrey’s involvement as a way to tear her down.”
Abrams continued, “She was hammered (online): ‘Oprah has a vendetta against black men.’ Here she participated in the Leaving Neverland documentary and a year later she was doing this film. Nobody said that Russell was innocent. Everybody said Michael (Jackson) was innocent and Oprah has a vendetta against black men. That’s quite telling about what transpired and the potential motivations here as to why we’re in the situation that we are in now, which is one of those things is kind of a blessing. Because if you want to have an ally, if you want someone in the trenches, you want someone that’s going to stand up when things get hot and to their credit, [filmmakers] Amy (Ziering) and Kirby (Dick) stood.”
Check out Oprah’s previous explanations with CBS This Morning below.