Asia Argento, the Italian actress who was among the first to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, denied recent reports that she sexually assaulted a 17-year-old boy, adding that her late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain insisted she pay off the accuser to avoid public scrutiny.
An article published by the New York Times on Sunday detailed documents and photographs alleging Argento without consent engaged in sexual activity with actor and musician Jimmy Bennett in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37. The report additionally found the documents, which arranged for a payment to Bennett for $380,000, were filed months after she spoke out about Weinstein and became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement.
Following a period of radio silence, Argento on Tuesday issued a statement to journalist Yashar Ali saying she “strongly” denied and opposed the claims in the Times‘ report.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” Argento said.
“I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett—who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages—unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me,” she continued.
Argento said Bennett was aware of Bourdain’s “perceived wealth,” knowing Bourdain had his reputation as a “beloved public figure to protect.”
“Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted,” Argento added. “Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought 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.”
Weinstein’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, on Monday issued a statement arguing the alleged claims against Argento undermined her accusations against Weinstein.
“This development reveals a stunning level of hypocrisy by Asia Argento, one of the most vocal catalysts who sought to destroy Harvey Weinstein,” he said.