A woman who accused music mogul Russell Simmons of rape and former “Extra” host A.J. Calloway of sexual assault said Monday that NBC News killed her story in 2018, just like it did with Ronan Farrow’s expose of Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct.
Author and activist Sil Lai Abrams wrote in an essay published in the Daily Beast that the network made her corroborate details of her experience in a process that took months longer than necessary, then refused to air the story. MSNBC host Joy Reid, who Abrams was working with, became so frustrated she eventually told Abrams to take her story elsewhere. Last year, Abrams’ story was finally published in The Hollywood Reporter, where she also detailed her issues with NBC News.
“When I approached Joy, I had no idea that NBC had a reputation for not breaking news about men accused of sexual assault,” Abrams wrote in her Daily Beast essay. “Therefore, I had no reason to believe my story would be derailed by the network.”
Abrams’ essay echoes journalist Farrow’s claim in his new book “Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators,” that NBC News killed his blockbuster report on Hollywood mogul Weinstein. Farrow went on to publish his report on Weinstein’s misconduct in the fall of 2017 in The New Yorker. His article helped ignite the Me Too movement.
“I asked Joy repeatedly if NBC was going to do to her what it did to Ronan, and she said that she didn’t think so,” Abrams wrote. “We both agreed that it would reflect very poorly if word got out that the network had suppressed yet another story of alleged sexual assault.”
Abrams taped an on-camera interview with Reid that was set to air in January 2018, to coincide with her written interview in New York magazine. After months of back and forth, Abrams wrote that she realized “NBC had no intention of airing my interview.”
“Just like that, NBC threw Joy and me under the bus. It killed her story and ― at least temporarily ― silenced me,” she added.
When reached by HuffPost, an NBC spokesperson declined to comment.
MSNBC released a statement in 2018 on Abrams’ allegation when it was first reported.
“When MSNBC pursues any investigative story our mission is always to be as thorough as we can, to scrutinize sources and corroborate information before we report,” an MSNBC spokesperson said last year. “Anything else falls short of our journalistic standards.”
Farrow told The Daily Beast last year that NBC News threatened to “smear” him if he kept pushing the Weinstein expose. The New York Times also reported that Farrow’s former NBC network producer said that the order to stop Farrow’s reporting came from “the very highest levels of NBC.”
In an essay for HuffPost published last year, Abrams reflected on how NBC’s response to Farrow’s story triggered memories of how NBC slow-walked her allegations against Simmons and Calloway.
NBC News Chairman Andy “Lack’s response has triggered painful memories of how NBC handled my sexual assault accusations against Russell Simmons and A.J. Calloway that were being reported by MSNBC’s Joy Reid,” Abrams wrote.
“A similar rationale was used when explaining why the network wouldn’t run my story,” Abrams added. “It took eight months, but my voice was finally heard.”
Abrams said Simmons raped her in 1994 after a night out in New York. Simmons has denied the allegation. She said Calloway sexually assaulted her in 2006 after an event in New York. Calloway’s attorney confirmed police investigated, but said Abrams’ allegations are false.
Head over to the Hollywood Reporter to read Abrams’ full essay.
This article has been updated to include NBC’s response to a request for comment.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.