Italian actress and sexual abuse campaigner Asia Argento denied Tuesday having had a sexual relationship five years ago with an underage teen, calling the allegations part of “a long-standing persecution”.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Argento, a Harvey Weinstein accuser and leading figure in the #MeToo movement, had paid Jimmy Bennett $380,000 over the alleged 2013 incident at a Los Angeles hotel.
“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article… as circulated also in national and international news,” a statement issued by her agent said.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” it goes on.
Argento says that she was linked to Bennett “during several years by friendship only”.
She said the friendship “ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett… unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me”.
Argento became a powerful voice for the #MeToo movement after accusing Hollywood producer Weinstein of raping her when she was 21 in his hotel room in 1997 during the Cannes film festival.
Argento goes on to say that her boyfriend, the late chef Anthony Bourdain, “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. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life,” the statement goes on.