Asia Argento, the Italian actress behind the #MeToo movement who's now accused of sexually assaulting a teen actor, spoke out Tuesday to say she never had a sexual relationship with her accuser and that her then-boyfriend Anthony Bourdain paid him off to protect them from the fallout.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” she said of Jimmy Bennett.
The $380,000 settlement was exposed Monday in a New York Times story detailing the allegations against Argento, which were anonymously leaked to the paper by email.
Argento said Tuesday that Bourdain was behind the decision to settle.
“Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity 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,” the actress said in a statement obtained by the journalist Yashar Ali. “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 Times, the alleged victim, a child star at the time, filed a notice of intent to sue soon after Argento first came forward with accusations of sexual assault against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein last October.
The pair first met a decade before the alleged assault, when Bennett played Argento’s son in the film “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.”
According to documents obtained by the Times, Bennett accused Argento of sexually assaulting him in a hotel room in California in 2013, when he was 17 and she was 37. (The age of consent in California is 18.) According to Bennett, Argento plied him with alcohol, kissed him, performed oral sex on him, initiated intercourse, and later requested he “take a number of photos” with her. A series of provocative social media posts contemporaneously uploaded by Argento confirm the pair spent time in a Marina del Rey hotel on the date in question.
On Tuesday, Argento explicitly denied assaulting Bennett and said her then-boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, made the payment to protect both of their reputations and to help Bennett, who was struggling financially.
“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,” Argento 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.”
Argento made an initial settlement payment of $200,000 in April, according to the Times, and continued to interact with Bennett on social media after the payment was made. Bourdain committed suicide in June.
Cover image: Chef Anthony Bourdain and actor Asia Argento attend the 2018 Women In The World Summit at Lincoln Center on April 12, 2018 in New York City. ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images.