The Internet exploded with takes on the future of the #MeToo movement Sunday after a New York Times report claimed Italian actress Asia Argento—a vocal leader for survivors of sexual violence—secretly paid off a young male actor who accused her of sexual assault. Now Argento is speaking out herself, saying she strongly denies the “contents” of the article and clarifying her relationship with actor Jimmy Bennett.
An intent-to-sue document obtained by the Times states that Argento engaged in a sexual encounter in May of 2013 with the then 17-year-old actor and musician, with whom she had costarred in the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. According to the document, the incident occurred in Argento’s Ritz-Carlton hotel room in Marina del Rey, California. Argento, per the account in the Times report, asked a family member who arrived with Bennett to leave before serving him alcohol and engaging in intercourse with him. Argento eventually agreed to pay Bennett $380,000, the Times reports.
At the time of publication, the actress and her team had not responded to the Times‘ repeated attempts for comment, but on Tuesday, she released a statement to journalist Yashar Ali in which she denies the account.
“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,” Argento writes. “I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
She goes on to describe her account of how the payment came to be, alleging that she had a “friendship” with Bennett that ended when he “unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me.” Argento says that Bennett was having economic problems at the time and references him taking legal action against members of his own family over finances.
“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,” the statement reads.
She continues by claiming that Bourdain (and Bennett) wanted the matter handled privately and that Bourdain, also worried about the negative publicity, considered him “dangerous.” Argento says that Bourdain “personally undertook to [sic] help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.” (Bourdain died by suicide in June of this year.)
The actress says that she will “oppose such false allegations” and seek out “all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues.”
Argento herself has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct at the hands of disgraced Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. While Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to six felony sexual assault counts in New York, including first-degree rape, he has denied all of her claims about their encounters.
The Times‘ report sparked online conversation about the legitimacy of #MeToo, prompting leaders and supporters to respond with statements that urged the public not to let allegations against Argento negate the movement at large.