Democratic Donor Accused of Sexually Assaulting 17-Year-Old Model in 1991

Russell Simmons (R) / Getty Images
November 20, 2017

Def Jam Recordings mogul Russell Simmons in 1991 coerced a then-17-year-old fashion model to perform oral sex on him after she "wildly" fought against having intercourse, according to allegations in a new report.

Keri Claussen Khalighi, a model hailing from a small town in Nebraska, first met Simmons and Ratner at a casting call, according to the Los Angeles Times report. Simmons, who contributed thousands of dollars to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's campaigns, and his protege Brett Ratner, then an up-and-coming video music director, took the young model to dinner in New York City one night in 1991. The men later took Khalighi back to Simmon's apartment to show her a music video they had been working on. It was then Khalighi said Simmons' aggressive sexual advances escalated.

Khalighi said she looked over at Ratner, who has previously been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct by at least six women, for assistance, saying "help me." She said, however, Ratner didn't do anything and she will never forget his expression because it told her "they were in it together."

Simmons, who was then about twice her age, tried to have sexual intercourse with Khalighi, but she fought back "wildly." She said he "eventually relented" and instead coerced her into performing oral sex on him.

"[Ratner] just sat there and watched," she said.

Khalighi said she felt "disgusting" afterwards and went to take a shower, prompting Simmons to walk up behind her in the shower and briefly penetrate her without consent. She jerked away and he left. "It hurt so much," Khalighi remarked.

Simmons has denied the allegations.

"Everything that occurred between Keri and me occurred with her full consent and participation," Simmons said.

Ratner's attorney, Martin Singer, claimed Ratner had "no recollection" of Khalighi asking for help and denied he witnessed her "protest" Simmons' sexual advances.

In response to the report about Simmons, actor Terry Crews posted a screenshot on Twitter of an email he claimed Simmons sent him a couple weeks earlier. In the email, Simmons asked Crews to give WME Entertainment agent Adam Venit "a pass" after Crews alleged he sexually assaulted him.

"Message Russell Simmons sent to me regarding my sexual assault case against Adam Venit of @WME: Dear @UncleRUSH [Simmons]——NO ONE GETS A PASS," Crews tweeted.

Simmons and Ratner have both donated thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns and organizations.

Ratner's donations include over $4,000 to Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), and $10,000 to the political action committee Ready for Hillary before Clinton announced she was running for president in 2015.

Simmons has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates over the last few decades, including $32,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $13,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Sens. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y) received  $1,000 and $2,000 respectively for their campaigns from Simmons. He also donated $1,000 to each of the political action committees for Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D., Calif.).

Simmons has also been active during presidential cycles as recent as 2016 when he endorsed Clinton and slammed her Democratic challenger, Bernie Sanders, for being insensitive to black people during the Democratic primary. Simmons donated $1,500 in 2015 to another Democratic challenger, Martin O'Malley, but he was forced to suspend his campaign in February 2016 after he struggled to gain traction in the polls.

He donated $7,300 to Obama for America between 2008 and 2012; Clinton received $1,000 for her 2008 presidential bid and over $4,000 for her two Senate campaigns; Former presidential candidate John Edwards also received $3,000 from Simmons.

Simmons has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump, claiming last September in an interview that then-candidate Trump was the "epitome" of "white supremacy."

"I've heard him [Trump] say racist things for 30 years ... white supremacy, he's the epitome of it. He represents the image of white supremacy more than any candidate I've ever seen," Simmons said.

Simmons is one of a number of high-profile celebrities and politicians to be recently accused of sexual misconduct. Many women have come forward with their stories and allegations following reports in October of sexual assault allegations levied against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Simmons did not publicly condemn Weinstein at the time, despite having previously praised his work and having attended multiple events with the Hollywood filmmaker. Simmons has, in the past, tweeted his support for victims of sexual abuse and violence.