Italian director and actor Asia Argento — a leading figure in the #MeToo movement — has denied a New York Times report alleging she agreed to pay off a former child actor who accused her of sexual assault shortly after his 17th birthday.
Argento had declined to comment on the report, which was published on Monday, according to the NYT. On Tuesday, the actress sent a statement to Italian media denying sexually assaulting Bennett. The AFP confirmed the statement with Argento's agent.
"I deny and reject all the content published by the NYT and shared by international media [...] I never had any sexual relations with Bennett," said the statement.
To this, the NYT responded: "We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting, which was based on verified documents and multiple sources."
Jimmy Bennett — who once played Argento’s son in a movie — said the actress sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room back in 2013. The Italian actress was 37 at that time.
The legal age of consent in California is 18.
Bennett’s lawyer informed Argento in November last year that the actor would be suing her for $3.5 million (€3.07 million) for “intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault, and battery,” said the documents obtained by the NYT via encrypted email.
A month earlier, Argento had made public her allegations of sexual assault against disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein. She accused him of raping her at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 when she was 21.
Weinstein has repeatedly denied non-consensual sex.
The NYT said Argento quietly agreed to pay Bennett $380,000 (€333,065). The documents received by the NYT allegedly include a picture of the two of them lying in bed dated May 9, 2013. A picture from the same date on Argento’s Instagram shows her hugging Bennett and the following caption:
“My son my love until I will live @jimmymbennett marina del rey 05.2013.”
A statement from Bennett’s lawyer to NBC News said their client "does not wish to comment on the documents or the events discussed in the New York Times article this evening".
“We are asking that you give our client some time and space. Jimmy is going to take the next 24 hours, or longer to prepare his response.”
The documents seen by the NYT said the events at the California hotel room in 2013 “precipitated a spiral of emotional problems” for Bennett. And when he saw Argento present herself as a victim of sexual assault “it was too much to bear”. Bennett’s account of how the events unfolded that day is laid out in the article.
Actor Rose McGowan, one of the faces behind the #MeToo campaign, wrote on Twitter that she was heartbroken following the allegations.
Euronews interviewed Argento after her public accusations against Weinstein. Argento told Euronews she found the strength to tell her story thanks to the support of other women in the #MeToo movement.
"It is only with empathy and solidarity that this rebellion is possible, that we can have the courage to denounce the monsters who try to expropriate our humanity," she said in early March.