Earlier this month, Oprah Winfrey announced she’d be stepping away from her role in the forthcoming #MeToo documentary about sexual misconduct allegations against Russell Simmons.
“I have decided that I will no longer be executive producer on The Untitled Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering documentary and it will not air on Apple TV+,” Winfrey said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Jan. 10.
Now, she has further explained her decision to leave the film and deny that pressure from Simmons caused her to step down.
“First of all, I just want to say that I have lived #MeToo since I was 9 years old and was raped at 9, sexually assaulted from 9 to 14 and then raped again at 14,” she told Gayle King on “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday (Jan. 21).
“Nothing is harder than standing up for yourself when you’re 14 and not being believed, and I was not believed by my own family. So, I stand in support of these women. I believe them,” she continued. “It was a hard decision because I knew that Russell Simmons had started publicly pressuring me and that me pulling out of the documentary was going to look like I was being pressured.”
Winfrey further revealed that it was ultimately the filmmakers’ desire to premiere the documentary, which she felt was incomplete, at the Sundance Film Festival that made her step down.
“Before the public pressure had started… I had gone to the filmmakers and said, ‘Houston, we have a problem here,’ because new information had come forward,” she said. “I said, I think we need to pull out of Sundance and if we can’t pull out of Sundance, I’m going to have to take my name off… Pull out of Sundance, ‘cause I don’t care about awards, I care about getting it right, and I think there are some inconsistencies in the stories that we need to look at.”
“I believe that the womens’ voices deserve to be heard and as an executive producer I also was in the position where I thought some things were not right,” she continued. “I wanted the context of the story to be broadened, I wanted more women to be brought into the story… I was asking for changes.”
The O.W.N. CEO also addressed the backlash she’d received for participating in the documentary and maintained that she believes and supports Simmons’ alleged victims.
“This is not a victory for Russell and I unequivocally say that I did not pull out because of Russel,” she concluded. “This is not a victory lap for him. I cannot be silenced by a Russell Simmons after all I’ve been through. I support the woman and I do hope people will see the film.”
See her full CBS interview below.