Actress Asia Argento Tuesday vehemently denied allegations that she sexually assaulted a teenage actor at a Marina del Rey hotel five years ago, and said her late boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, is the one who paid the accuser to avoid “negative publicity.”
Argento, a leading voice in the #MeToo movement and one of the first women to publicly accuse producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, issued a statement to the Huffington Post in response to a New York Times article detailing a $380,000 settlement she allegedly paid to actor Jimmy Bennett.
According to the Times, Bennett claimed Argento sexually assaulted him at the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey in 2013, when he was 17 years old.
In her statement released Tuesday, Argento said she strongly denies the allegations in the article.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false,” she said. “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.
“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 said. “Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.
“Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such a 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.”
Bourdain, the famed chef, author and TV host, committed suicide in June.
Argento, now 42, and Bennett, now 22, appeared in a film together in 2004, with Bennett playing the role of Argento’s son. According to the New York Times report, the pair stayed in touch after the film and met for a reunion in 2013 at the Marina del Rey Ritz-Carlton.
During that meeting, Argento allegedly kissed the teen, performed oral sex and engaged in sexual intercourse with him, the New York Times reported.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials said Monday they never received a report about an alleged sexual assault in the matter, but would reach out to Bennett and his attorney.
Argento claims she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein in 1997 when she was 21 years old. She has been a leading voice in the #MeToo movement ever since she went public last year with her allegation.
Following the New York Times story, Weinstein attorney Ben Brafman issued a statement saying the Bennett allegations show the “stunning level of hypocrisy” by the actress.
In her statement Tuesday, Argento called the Bennett story “the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution. I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues.”