On August 19, the New York Times published a report claiming that Asia Argento — a face and name at the forefront of the #MeToo movement and key accuser in the cases against shamed producer Harvey Weinstein — had sexually assaulted and then paid off a young actor and singer, Jimmy Bennett, then 17. Now, Argento has released her first statement in regards to the Times' article.
"I am deeply shocked and hurt having read the news that is absolutely false," she wrote in the statement shared with journalist Yashar Ali. "I have never had a sexual relationship with Bennett." Argento noted Bennett's "severe economic problems" which resulted in his alleged request for an "exorbitant" amount of money from her and her then-boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide earlier this year. In the statement, Argento goes on to add that "Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life."
According to the developing timeline, it appears that Bennett, now 22, contacted Argento and Bourdain after the New Yorker's exposé on Weinstein was published, and around the time the Italian actress became vocal about her stance on non-disclosure agreements being used as a way to silence survivors. Bennett originally demanded $3.5 million in damages, per the report, but the later agreed on a sum of $380,000 with no NDA attached. Along with the payment, Bennett was allegedly barred from releasing a supposedly damning photograph of him and Argento laying on a bed at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, CA where the alleged assault occurred. In the Times' story, the photo comes across as a smoking gun; however, Argento makes no mention of this reported photo in her statement. Refinery29 has reached out to Argento's lawyer for additional comment.
Argento and Bennett first met when she directed him on the set of the film, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, where they played mother and son. Bennett went on to appear in a few other roles as a child actor, before turning his focus to music. It appears that he is actually set to go on tour with Bella Thorne's boyfriend, Mod Sun. Neither Bennett nor his lawyer have responded to Argento's statement or Refinery29's request for comment.
Read Argento's full statement below.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).