Actress slams teen ‘sex abuse’ claims
ASIA Argento said on Tuesday that she never had "any sexual relationship" with a man who 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 accuser's "longstanding persecution" of her.
In a statement first reported by US journalist Yashar Ali, Argento said that her accuser, former child actor Jimmy Bennett, was "considered dangerous" by Bourdain and that a $US380,000 (A$516,000) 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", reports the New York Post.
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 allegation against her stems from an alleged encounter between her and Bennett in a California hotel room in 2013. As a child actor, Bennett played the son of Argento's character in a 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 $US380,000 (A$516,000) payout detailed in The New York Times report. 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 longstanding persecution".
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 on 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 on September 6.
Argento's fellow actress - and Weinstein accuser - Roasnna Arquette took to Twitter to defend her friend.
"The monster is at it again" Arquette wrote, using her reported nickname for Weinstein.
"I know many many rape and trauma survivors who act out sexually The wounds they carry run deep. I pray for them. the timing of this story is suspect. Asia was still raped by Harvey Weinstein," wrote Arquette.
She then responded to a tweet from Argento's friend and fellow #MeToo activist Rose McGowan that read: "None of us know the truth of the situation and I'm sure more will be revealed. Be gentle."
Arquette replied: "That's for sure."
"I got to know Asia Argento ten months ago. Our commonality is the shared pain of being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein," McGowan tweeted hours after the new broke.
"My heart is broken. I will continue my work on behalf of victims everywhere."