Writer Says NBC Quashed Interview on Sexual Assault Claims

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 23, 2019   

Sil Lai Abrams' on-camera interview in 2018 never aired

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - An award-winning writer is accusing NBC News of muzzling her claims of sexual assault by prominent men in the entertainment business.

In a piece on Monday for The Daily Beast, speaker and writer Sil Lai Abrams says she made the claims in an on-camera interview with Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC in January 2018, just a few months after the "Me Too" movement caught wind.

Abrams told Reid that music entrepeneur Russell Simmons — a co-founder of Def Jam Records — raped her in 1994. She also claimed that entertainment reporter A.J. Calloway sexually assaulted her in his car in 2006, and that Calloway was arrested following the incident.

At the time of the interview's taping, Simmons had already been accused publicly of sexual misconduct. (Though maintaining his innocence, he stepped down from his roles at Def Jam and his clothing brands in November 2017.) But Abrams' accusation against Calloway would have been the first against him.

Abrams was told that her interview would be aired on NBC rather than MSNBC. She was also told that Reid would pen a lengthy written piece about the interview for New York magazine.

A few days after the taping of the interview, Reid told Abrams the whole story was getting stalled, seemingly due to uproar from Simmons' lawyer. Abrams did not expect the months of delay that followed.

"Over the next several months," Abrams writes, "NBC put me through an elaborate and bizarre vetting process. I provided legal documentation, hospital bills, and more than a dozen corroborating witnesses. Still, they stonewalled."


After three months of difficulties, Reid told Abrams in an April 2018 phone-call that higher-ups at NBC were ignoring her further inquiries about airing the interview. She advised Abrams to try to get her story published elsewhere.

"Just like that, NBC threw Joy and me under the bus," Abrams opines. "It killed her story and — at least temporarily — silenced me."

Later that month, Abrams got in touch with Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter.

"Two months later," she writes, "on June 28, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of my allegations against Russell Simmons and A.J. Calloway, along with the cover-up of my story by NBC."

More women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, and Calloway was eventually suspended by Warner Brothers in February 2019.

I provided legal documentation, hospital bills, and more than a dozen corroborating witnesses. Still, they stonewalled.

In Monday's article, Abrams compares her experience with NBC to Ronan Farrow's account of a different situation in his newly-published book Catch and Kill.

In the book, Farrow claims he faced stiff resistance from NBC leadership for trying to shed light on sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. He also accused NBC of failing for years to act on sexual misconduct claims against "Today" anchor Matt Lauer. (Lauer was fired in November 2017 after a sexual misconduct review.)

NBC News president Noah Oppenheim has disputed many of Farrow's claims in Catch and Kill, saying in a statement, "We have no secrets and nothing to hide."

In a leaked memo obtained by Fox News, Oppenheim states, "Matt Lauer's actions were abhorrent, and the anger and sadness he caused continue to this day. As we've said since the moment he was fired, his abuses should never have happened."

But Oppenheim goes on to say, "Ronan Farrow's book takes that undeniable fact and twists it into a lie — alleging we were a 'company with a lot of secrets.'"

"Farrow's effort to defame NBC News," he writes later in the email memo, "is clearly motivated not by a pursuit of truth, but an axe to grind. It is built on a series of distortions, confused timelines, and outright inaccuracies."

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