Asia Argento has denied allegations that she sexually assaulted child actor Jimmy Bennett while he was 17, and paid him off.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that she sexually assaulted Bennett and paid him $380,000 not to sue her.
The payments allegedly came shortly after Argento told The New Yorker last October that Harvey Weinstein raped her in 1997, helping to spark the #MeToo movement.
Argento told the freelance journalist Yashar Ali in a statement on Tuesday that she had “never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” and was “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false.”
She said that she did give Bennett money when he asked, but not for the reasons in the Times report.
Argento said that Bennett was “undergoing severe economic problems” and that he knew Argento’s boyfriend, the TV chef Anthony Bourdain, “was of great perceived wealth.”
Here’s the full statement:
“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018, as circulated also in national and international news.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. 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 taken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages — unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me. Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.
“Antony [sic] insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. Anthony was afraid of the possible negativity 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 into our life.
“This is, therefore, the umpteeth 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 allegation and will assume in the short term and all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues.”
The Times’ story was based on documents it received from an unidentified source via encrypted email.
The sexual assault allegedly took place in 2013, shortly after Bennett’s 17th birthday and when Argento was 37. The age of consent in California is 18, meaning Argento could be charged with statutory rape if the claims are found to be credible.
Argento and Bennett starred as mother and son in the 2004 film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”