Asia Argento is strongly denying a New York Times report that accused the actress of having sexual relations with an underage actor in 2013 and then paying him off.
The #MeToo leader and Harvey Weinstein accuser released a statement Tuesday blasting the claim, declaring, “I have never had any sexual relationship with [Jimmy] Bennett,” and saying she was “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false.”
Argento admitted paying her former costar, though pointed to her late boyfriend, culinary star Antony Bourdain, who died of suicide on June 8, as both the inspiration and the financier.
The actress said Bennett “unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me” and knew Bourdain “was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect” and “Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us” and “personally undertook to help Bennett economically, under the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
The Times countered in a story Tuesday afternoon with a statement from a spokesperson: “We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting, which was based on verified documents and multiple sources. It is worth noting that Ms. Argento, her lawyer and agent were contacted repeatedly and given four days to respond to the story that published in The Times on Sunday.”
Here’s Argento’s full statement, as obtained by journalist Yashar Ali:
According to a report by Times on Sunday, Argento agreed to pay $380,000 to Bennett, 22, who claimed the actress sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room two months after he turned 17. (In California, 18 is the age of consent.) The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has said it is “aware” of the allegations and were trying to reach out to Bennett.
UPDATE: TMZ has published text messages allegedly sent by Argento to a “friend” where she admits having sex with Bennett.