Just yesterday, it was reported that Oprah Winfrey felt "pressured" by Russell Simmons to pull out of the #MeToo movement based documentary that highlights his alleged sexual assaults. Though the entertainment mogul can breathe a sigh of relief now that Oprah has removed her name from the Sundance project, it doesn't mean she's in his corner.
The self-made business woman made it very clear to Gayle King on CBS This Morning that Simmons' public pleas of mercy wasn't an indication that she believed his innocence. It was a lack of consistencies in the stories that caused her last minute hesitation. Hesitation she stands by given her belief that, "Until the thing is on the screen, you have the right to change your mind.”
Experiencing her own sexual assaults, including rape, has spearheaded her push to share the stories of alleged victims. Personal relationship aside, Winfrey explained she would never let "a Russell Simmons" intimidate her enough to stop the work she believes is necessary within this sensitive climate. However, it's more important to her to make sure the facts are in order before potentially ruining his reputation forever.
In the meantime, the the film’s producers feel very solid in keeping the piece on track for the movie festival premiere. Executive Producer Abigail Disney issued a press release saying, “Russell Simmons and his enablers cannot intimidate us, bully us or ignore us.” While accuser, Drew Dixon, hopes "black girls become more visible as a result of this documentary." Founder of Women and Hollywood Melissa Silverstein even publicly questioned Oprah's support of women of color:
"[This is] one of the saddest moments for the #MeToo movement. This whole situation is tragic, particularly for Drew Dixon. Do you support Drew or do you not? Just think how hard it is going to be for women, particularly women of color, to come forward next time when they have been thrown under the bus by none other than Oprah."
The film's producer, Amy Ziering, also went on to state:
"We felt that we couldn’t change course. Once there’s a Sundance announcement and you make a film on sexual assault, we know having been in this game that you don’t want to do anything that would be interpreted as succumbing to harassment and intimidation. We don’t want to in any way impugn these women. We weren’t going to let their voices be diminished in any way."
All in all one thing is for certain: On the Record will go on with or without Oprah. Watch Oprah's explanation for stepping down in her interview above!