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Asia Argento Denies Sexual Assault, Says Payoff Was Anthony Bourdain’s Idea

Asia Argento said Tuesday that she never had “any sexual relationship” with a man who has accused her of molesting him when he was a minor, and that her former boyfriend, the late Anthony Bourdain, urged her to agree to a financial settlement to end the man’s “long-standing persecution” of her.

In a statement first reported by journalist Yashar Ali, Argento said that her accuser, former child actor Jimmy Bennett, was “considered dangerous” by Bourdain and that a $380,000 payout to him was a way “to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help” after the actor “unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me.” Argento said she was “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false,” referring to a report in the New York Times detailing the settlement and Bennett’s allegation that the Italian actress-director sexually assaulted him in 2013, when he was a teenager.

Argento has been one of the harshest accusers of disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein and one of the most outspoken critics of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry. The accusation against her stems from an alleged encounter between her and Bennett in a California hotel room in 2013, when he was 17. (The legal age of consent in California is 18.) As a child actor, Bennett played the son of Argento’s character in the movie she directed, “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”

Argento said she had been “linked to [Bennett] during several years by friendship only,” which ended when he suddenly demanded money from her as her public profile grew during the investigation into Weinstein. She contends that Bennett was motivated by his own “severe economic problems” and his belief that Bourdain was a wealthy target with a reputation to protect.

“Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted,” Argento said in her statement. “Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us. We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”

Argento did not dispute the specific details of the reported $380,000 payout. But she said the settlement and its exposure are “the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution.”

The New York Times report showed images, posted on Twitter in 2013, of Argento and Bennett together, plus tweets by Argento expressing her eagerness to see him and her love for him. Bennett alleges that Argento performed oral sex on him and had sex with him when they met at a hotel.

Disclosure of the settlement has put into jeopardy Argento’s role as a judge on singing competition show “X Factor Italy.” Sky Italia, the show’s broadcaster, and FremantleMedia, its producer, said Monday that, if the allegations against Argento were true, they “would have no choice but to take note of it and put an end to the collaboration with Asia Argento.” A number of Italians have also taken to social media to demand Argento’s removal from the show, which is scheduled to start airing Sept. 6.

FremantleMedia Italy and Sky Italia both said Tuesday that they had no immediate comment on Argento’s statement.

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