Considering the wave of controversy around Russell Simmons’ appearance on “The Breakfast Club” radio show earlier this month, many people were surprised that the entrepreneur — who has been accused of sexual assault or misconduct by at least 20 women — was featured on the podcast and video series “Drink Champs,” which airs on Tidal and Revolt TV.
Following a backlash from many people online, including some of those accusers — notably Sil Lai Abrams, who has accused Simmons of sexually assaulting her in 1994 and is featured in the recent HBO documentary, “On the Record,” on the accusations against Simmons — Tidal and Revolt TV have pulled the episode from their platforms, and most social-media posts promoting it seem to have been deleted.
“What in the entire hell are Jay-Z and Tidal doing by giving Russell Simmons a platform to discuss #BlackLivesMatter?” she tweeted. “Why do people continue to give him a pass?”
“By quietly giving him an unchallenged voice on their media platforms they make a huge statement: Black survivors of sexual violence are an irrelevant casualty of hip hop,” Abrams continued. “The most powerful Black men in the industry are rallying to the defense of Russell Simmons. They are actively taking a stance AGAINST Black women.”
Earlier this month, she and many others slammed “The Breakfast Club” radio show for featuring Simmons in an episode and allowing him to soft-pedal the accusations against him. She and others appeared in a follow-up episode with host Angela Yee.
Reps for Revolt TV and Tidal did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment, however, the two companies do not program “Drink Champs,” which launched in 2015 and essentially act as distributors for the finished programs (the show inked a deal with Revolt late in 2016 and with Tidal last year). While it’s likely that staffers at Revolt and Tidal could have spotted Simmons’ name on the incoming show and flagged it before before it aired, it seems very unlikely that Jay-Z or Diddy would be involved in those decisions.
On Tuesday, “Drink Champs” co-host N.O.R.E. apologized for the episode, saying he hadn’t been “fully aware of what was going on.”
“I just wanted to put black men together who are powerful for a powerful convo !!! Moving forward I will be more aware of guests and who and how they are presented,” N.O.R.E. wrote in response to a Tweet from Temple University professor and BET News host Marc Lamont Hill, who had also appeared on the show and said he hadn’t been informed that Simmons would be as well.
Abrams excoriated Hill in one of her Tweets. “@marclamonthill did you ask him about the multiple rape allegations against him???”
Hill soon responded, “I stand with, and fully believe, the women who have come forward about Russell’s sexual violence,” he wrote. “I am sorry that I shared space with someone who has caused such harm without accountability. Although I had NO IDEA he’d be on, I am nonetheless deeply sorry that I was a part of it.”