Activist: NBC News 'Silenced Me,' Killed Story Naming Powerful Rapists

The NBC Peacock (Getty Images)
October 21, 2019

Domestic violence activist and author Sil Lai Abrams accused NBC News of killing a story that would have outed her powerful rapists.

In a Monday piece for the Daily Beast, Abrams wrote that she told MSNBC host Joy Reid in 2017 that she had been raped by hip hop mogul Russell Simmons in 1994 and sexually assaulted by Extra co-host A.J. Calloway in 2006. In January 2018, Reid and Abrams filmed an on-camera interview that was supposed to air on NBC News.

Abrams claims that the day before the interview was set to air, Reid told her over the phone that "Russell Simmons' attorney had gone ballistic and NBC was not going to air the segment." Over the next few months, Abrams provided "legal documentation, hospital bills, and over a dozen corroborating witnesses," but NBC still slow-played the story, even though Simmons had already been publicly accused of rape by another woman.

"I've never done a story that has this much evidence before," a frustrated Reid allegedly told Abrams. "I have more evidence than the LA Times and The New York Times stories combined. So the whole thing is, if my company will trust the evidence that I've shown them, which is substantial, they will do the story."

In April, Reid told Abrams that NBC management had stopped responding to her inquiries and that she should take her story elsewhere. "Just like that, NBC threw Joy and me under the bus. It killed her story and—at least temporarily—silenced me," Abrams writes.

Instead she took the story to the Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters, who broke the news two months later and reported on NBC News's slow-walking of the story. "Joy's reporting was extremely thorough," Masters said in a statement relayed by Abrams. "While obviously I had to review everything, she laid out an excellent roadmap. Everything checked and we published. The story was ready to go."

Abrams's essay comes a week after the release of Ronan Farrow's book Catch and Kill, which details how NBC News shut down reporting that exposed Harvey Weinstein's history of rape and sexual harassment. Among other tactics, Weinstein leveraged his extensive contacts with the Clintons to successfully kill the story, requiring Farrow to go to the New Yorker for publication.