An author and former model has accused NBC of taking away her “voice” as she attempted to go public with sexual assault accusations against music mogul Russell Simmons and television host A.J. Calloway.
Sil Lai Abrams, a domestic-violence-awareness activist, felt she became a victim all over again as she was silenced by the network that dragged on the vetting process for her personal story which she had already detailed – not using real names – in her 2007 book, No More Drama, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Emboldened by the #MeToo movement that erupted in the wake of allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Abrams approached MSNBC host Joy Reid, whom she knew professionally, about her story.
“I needed to tell my story, to say his name out loud, to let people know what he had done to me,” Abrams said.
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
Abrams felt emboldened by the #MeToo movement to reveal that “Ronald,” described in the book as “well known for only dating models and for his hard-partying lifestyle funded by his very successful record label,” was Russell Simmons, who Abrams alleges raped her in 1994. “Well-spoken B-list celebrity Ray,” who Abrams says assaulted her in 2006, was A.J. Calloway, a host on the entertainment show Extra, which is produced by Warner Bros. and airs in major markets on NBC owned-and-operated stations. Both men deny the allegations.
By December of last year, MSNBC’s standards and legal departments had started putting Abrams “through a grinding vetting process” which required the 47-year-old to provide documentation and sources from years before.
Reid reportedly planned to write about Abrams’ story in a piece for New York magazine as well as the interview for MSNBC. She taped an on-camera interview with Abrams at MSNBC’s New York studio in January but the process “dragged on frustratingly for weeks and then months,” according to THR.
Reid texted or emailed Abrams at times, frustrated that the network was “slow walking” the story with “stupid” requests, allegedly asking for things that were not part of the story.
“NY Magazine doesn’t want to do the story separately from NBC because of the threatening nature of Russell’s lawyer’s communications with them. … They are a small outfit and feel safer rolling with the much larger NBC Universal umbrella over them. But we are on our way to the finish line finally,” Reid told Abrams in January.
But the months dragged on, with NBC receiving threatening letters from both Simmons and Calloway. In April, Abrams said Reid told her that the network had stopped responding to her queries about when the segment would air.
The process unfolded in the aftermath of the Weinstein scandal which was revealed in Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning expose – which NBC had passed on.
“NBC also has been criticized for its handling of the Billy Bush-Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape — a story that ultimately was broken by The Washington Post. And the network has faced questions about its own internal culture. In the wake of allegations against Matt Lauer, NBC exonerated itself after conducting its own ‘culture assessment’ without hiring outside investigators,” THR reported.
MSNBC provided THR with a statement from Reid about the Abrams story.
“Investigative reports like these take time, and not surprisingly, sometimes journalists get frustrated as well,” Reid’s statement read. “I inappropriately shared that frustration privately with Sil Lai. I completely respect MSNBC’s standards and practices. Meticulous research to get the facts right was the only option, especially given the seriousness of the allegations.”
Abrams sees the network’s refusal to air her story as another example of trying to silence victims.
“They took away my voice,” she said.
“I want people to understand how incredibly challenging this is, with a story like mine that’s highly sourced, with me doing this [advocacy] work in the public arena. And I can’t get my story out there? ” Abrams told the Hollywood Reporter. “If I didn’t have those things, let’s be very clear, no one would know about this today. I’m speaking out for all the other women who have been silenced, to let them know it’s not their fault.”
NBC defended its decisions and both men deny the allegations in statements published by The Root.