The report details author and activist Sil Lai Abrams’ allegations against Simmons and A.J. Calloway, a host on the entertainment show Extra. The accusations themselves are severe and disturbing, as Abrams recalls attempting to commit suicide after being raped by Simmons in 1994.
Abrams also alleges Calloway assaulted her in 2006, with forcible kissing, touching, and self exposure. Following the incident, she filed a police report and Calloway was arrested. She also received four court orders of protection from him after the arrest, but the case was eventually dismissed in 2007.
When the #MeToo movement began gaining traction in the fall, Abrams felt inspired to come forward with her stories. She'd spent enough time as a young woman in NYC with Brett Ratner and Russell Simmons to know that both would be facing multiple accusations. True to her suspicions, accusations against Simmons came out before Abrams decided to approach MSNBC’s Joy Reid to tell her own story.
But the process with NBC became slow and drawn-out. Reid decided to take on the story in November, but NBC kept requesting information and documentation that drew out the reporting for months. In February, Reid texted Abrams about her frustration with the network's clear attempts to discredit the credible story. "At this point they're asking me for stupid stuff," she wrote. "I'm not going to let these people kill this story."
But kill it they did. By late February, NBC had received threatening letters from both Simmons and Calloway. "This has gone up past the lawyers that I deal with, to NBC Universal's lawyers,” Reid wrote Abrams. “I mean, I always deal with the head of NBC legal but this has gone to his boss."
An NBC spokesperson told Complex that Abrams requested both men be included in her story, but that the network could only verify one of the accusations. Reid said in a statement that when MSNBC was “unable to confirm significant aspects of the claims related to the second man,” they could no longer report on the story.
“Investigative reports like these take time, and not surprisingly, sometimes journalists get frustrated as well,” Reid’s statement reads. “I inappropriately shared that frustration privately with Sil Lai. I completely respect MSNBC’s standards and practices.”
But THR points out that this kind of behavior is not uncommon from the network. NBC turned away Ronan Farrow's harrowing expose on Harvey Weinstein and cleared itself of any wrongdoing after the Matt Lauer accusations surfaced.
Finally, in April, after a 6-month-long process, Reid told Abrams to take her story elsewhere. Now sharing it with THR, she considers NBC’s mishandling of her trauma and efforts to squash the story part of a bigger system that still protects abusers.
"They took away my voice," she told THR. "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? 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."