Weeks after being called out by 50 Cent and Russell Simmons, media mogul Oprah Winfrey has reportedly canceled her plans on executive producing her #MeToo Apple TV+ documentary titled The United. It was recently announced that Winfrey was working on sharing the story of Drew Dixon, a former music executive who has made claims that she was raped and sexually harassed by Russell Simmons. The Def Jam icon has adamantly denied the allegations.
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Rapper 50 Cent suggested Winfrey specifically targets black men accused of sexual assault. “No Harvey Weinstein, No Epstein, just Micheal jackson and Russell Simmons this sh*t is sad,” the Power executive wrote on Instagram. Simmons would later pen a lengthy message on social media speaking directly to Winfrey.
“Shocking how many people have misused this important powerful revolution for relevance and money,” Simmons wrote. “Maybe you should name your documentary ‘FLAVOR OF LOVE’!? In closing, I am guilty of exploiting, supporting, and making the soundtrack for a grossly unequal society, but i have never been violent or forced myself on anyone.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Winfrey revealed she’d be stepping away from the project. “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. “First and foremost, I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women Their stories deserve to be told and heard.”
She added that her reason for ditching the project had to do with “creative vision,” not because of pressure from the public. “In my opinion, there is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured and it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision,” Winfrey continued. “Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are talented filmmakers. I have great respect for their mission but given the filmmakers’ desire to premiere the film at the Sundance Film Festival before I believe it is complete, I feel it’s best to step aside. I will be working with Time’s Up to support the victims and those impacted by the abuse and sexual harassment.”
Meanwhile, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering issued a statement of their own. “Revealing hard truths is never easy, and the women in our documentary are all showing extraordinary strength and courage by raising their voices to address sexual abuse in the music industry,” they told PEOPLE. “While we are disappointed that Oprah Winfrey is no longer an Executive Producer on the project, we are gratified that Winfrey has unequivocally said she believes and supports the survivors in the film.”
“The #MeToo experiences of Black women deserve to be heard, especially against powerful men, so we will continue with our plans to bring the film to The Sundance Film Festival,” they added. “This film more than two years in the making, will be our eighth to premiere at Sundance. The film is a beacon of hope for voices that have long been suppressed, and an inspiration for anyone wanting to regain their personal power.”