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Author Sil Lai Abrams Claims NBC Covered Up Her Rape Allegations Against Russell Simmons

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Who Is Sil Lai Abrams? New Details On Author Who Claims NBC Covered Up Her Rape Allegations

NBC has taken major hits to its credibility as a news organization this month. Ronan Farrow published a devastating account of the network's attempts to squash his story about Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulting dozens of women. Farrow's new book Catch and Kill paints a damning story of the top executives at the network dragging their feet on the story, even as Farrow compiled more and more credible evidence that Weinstein was a serial rapist. The book revealed that many of the top brass in the news division have their own history of sexual misconduct in the workplace that might have made them squeamish about talking about what Weinstein did in his company. In addition, many of them had personal relationships with Weinstein and fell prey to his pressure to kill the story. The same men blocking the release of Farrow's work on Weinstein are seriously implicated in covering up Matt Lauer's alleged sexual assault of a coworker in 2014. 

Now, another sexual assault victim says NBC prevented the release of her story even after she recorded an interview with MSNBC host Joy Reid. Sil Lai Abrams contends she was raped by music mogul Russell Simmons in 1994 and sexually assaulted by Extra host AJ Calloway in 2006. She had spoken of the incidents before this and Calloway had been arrested in connection with the 2006 incident. However, she had never named Simmons before. Joy Reid was committed to telling the whole story but the network dragged its heels for months until she finally took her story to the Hollywood Reporter.

Who is Sil Lai Abrams? Read on to find out more.  

1. Sil Lai Abrams

Abrams is an author and activist who has focused much of her career on advocating for victims of domestic violence. She was a model in her teens and early 20s and later spent time in the corporate world. By the mid-2000s, she was volunteering in domestic violence shelters. A survivor of domestic violence herself, she has continued to work on preventing domestic violence in the Black community.

In 2007, she wrote her first book No More Drama: Nine Simple Steps to Transforming a Breakdown into a Breakthrough. She followed that with a memoir called Black Lotus: A Woman's Search for Racial Identity, which was selected by NPR as one of their 2016 books of the year. As a journalist, her work has been seen at The Grio, EBONY, Men's Fitness, The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post.


A post shared by Black Lotus (@ablacklotus) on May 4, 2016 at 6:25am PDT

Abrams is an award-winning writer.

2. Russell Simmons assault

In her book No More Drama, Abrams shared the experience of being assaulted by a man she knew. At the time, she did not reveal his name. She called him Ronald, though she later revealed that it was Russell Simmons, and said he was "well known for only dating models and for his hard-partying lifestyle funded by his very successful record label."

In an article in the Hollywood Reporter in 2017, she shared that she had known him for years and had had a consensual physical relationship with him at one time. In 1994, they had gotten together socially and she assumed that they were meeting as friends — she told him she was seeing someone else and did not plan to sleep with him. He said he understood. She became intoxicated that evening and asked Simmons to have his driver take her home. Instead, he took her to his house, where he offered her a bed in a spare room. Later, she recalled him coming in wearing nothing but a condom and raping her. 

In the day following the assault, Abrams told multiple people what happened. She was distraught and attempted to kill herself by an overdose. Friends recall taking her to the emergency room and needing money to get her transferred fro better mental health care. They called Simmons who denied any wrongdoing and said: "I'm being advised that I can't pay for anything, I cannot be involved with anything financial." She was eventually transferred to the psychiatric ward at St. Vincent's Medical Center for several days. Friends recall visiting her there and she has bills to verify her stay.

RELATED: New Details On Black Cube, The Israeli Spy Agency Harvey Weinstein Hired To Discredit His Accusers

2. AJ Calloway assault

In 2006, Abrams wrote that she approached AJ Calloway, who was a personality at BET, about appearing at a charity event. They worked together planning the appearance and, while he was occasionally overly familiar, she kept the relationship as professional as possible. One night, they were sharing a car and he exposed his erect penis to her. He said, "Do you see what you do to me?" She says she told him, "Why don't you do us both a favor and put that away?" She stayed in the car, thinking the ride was almost over but when they got to her home, he wouldn't let her exit the car. He took his penis back out, attempted to get her to perform oral sex, groped her breasts, and eventually held her hand on his erection, using it to bring himself to climax. She filed a police report and he was arrested within the next few days. The case was ultimately dismissed and the records are now sealed. 

RELATED: NBC News Chief Andy Lack Allegedly Covered Up Matt Lauer's Sexual Misconduct

3. The #MeToo Movement

In 2017, as the #MeToo movement was gathering steam and women all over the country were speaking up about sexual misconduct by men, Abrams decided she needed to publicly name the two men who had assaulted her. This week she published a piece in the Daily Beast detailing how she spoke with Joy Reid about the incidents and Reid wanted to tell her story. "After going through a thorough vetting process, an on-camera interview with Joy was taped on January 7, 2018. While she’s a host on MSNBC, I was told that NBC was not taping it for the cable network but NBC itself, in order to get it a larger audience beyond Joy’s weekend show; also, it was to be paired with a lengthy print piece written by Joy for New York magazine."

RELATED: MSNBC President Allegedly Shared Naked Photo Of Maria Menounos With Staff

4. Delayed air date

The day before the story was set to air, Reid spoke with Abrams to tell her that the network was delaying the story. Russell Simmons had been in touch with executives and was making the situation complicated. "[Reid] informed me that Russell Simmons’ attorney had gone ballistic and NBC was not going to air the segment, and the New York magazine story was also on hold since they were paired," Abrams writes.  "She assured me the story wasn’t dead, but that NBC simply needed more vetting done in order to feel comfortable with moving forward."

Abrams says she cooperated with the fact-checkers at the network to make sure they could verify the story and get it to air. "Over the next several months, NBC put me through an elaborate and bizarre vetting process. I provided legal documentation, hospital bills, and more than a dozen corroborating witnesses," she recalls. "Still, they stonewalled. 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. 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."

NBC killed the story.

5. Take the story elsewhere

For the next two months, Reid wrangled with lawyers at the top of the NBC Universal organization. They put the story through the most stringent approval process Reid had ever seen but it still wasn't enough. More than six months after they taped their interview, Reid told Abrams NBC would not be airing the story. "Two more months of back and forth over email would occur before it became clear that NBC had no intention of airing my interview," Abrams says. "The last time I spoke with Joy was on April 6, 2018, when she called to tell me that senior management had stopped responding to her inquiries about her piece on me. She said I should take the story elsewhere."

6. The Hollywood Reporter takes the story

Much as Farrow did when he moved his story to The New Yorker, Abrams went to a print publication with her story. She contacted Kim Masters, a writer for the Hollywood Reporter and shared with her the background work she and Joy Reid had done. Two months later the magazine broke the story. Masters told the Daily Beast there was no journalistic reason NBC should have held off on running the story. "Joy’s reporting was extremely thorough," Masters said. "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 now openly derides NBC for its failure to break major stories about powerful men assaulting women. As with Farrow's story about Weinstein, which later won a Pulitzer, the story Joy Reid was working on was thorough and credible. NBC caved to pressure from powerful men and rather than do the right thing.

"The media is supposed to be a watchdog for abuses of power," Abrams writes. "Yet we keep learning how NBC uses its power to protect those in power." NBC had no comment on her article in the Daily Beast.  

Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. Her work has been seen at Ravishly, Babble, Scary Mommy, The Mid, Redbook online, and The Broad Side. She is the creator of the blog Stay at Home Pundit and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.