Just weeks after Oprah Winfrey pulled her name from a documentary about Russell Simmons’ alleged history of sexual assault, one of the music mogul’s accusers who was featured in the film spoke out against Winfrey for calling her by the wrong name.
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The billionaire businesswoman was featured on "CBS This Morning" last week and detailed her decision to step back from her role as executive producer for “On the Record,” which premiered at Sundance Film Festival over the weekend.
She previously announced she would be stepping away from the documentary on Jan. 10 – just two weeks shy of the documentary's Jan. 25 premiere date. She said at the time she believed more work was needed and that the filmmakers were “not aligned” in their "creative vision."
Winfrey later revealed Simmons had attempted to pressure her about her involvement with the doc, but said his efforts were not what prompted her to leave the project. She insisted to the morning show hosts that she "unequivocally did not pull out because of Russell."
During her CBS interview, Winfrey described that she felt more of Simmons’ accusers needed to be included in the film and that she wanted the context “to be broadened.”
She referenced a previous CBS story by Michelle Miller, which featured three of Simmons’ accusers, including Alexia Norton Jones. But in naming Norton Jones – one of the last women to be added to the documentary – Winfrey called her by the wrong name twice, referring to her instead as “Alexia Norton Strong.”
"Right in that moment, Oprah is sharing her own story, about what happened to her. She then inserts her pain into our experience about why she’s stepping away. And at the same time, I don’t have a name.”
“When you see the documentary, which I do hope that people will see the documentary, I felt that story needed to be broadened. One of the things I said to the producers is, ‘I don’t think that deserves to just be a soundbite,’” she said. “I can honestly say, I learned more about Alexia Norton Strong in Michelle Miller’s story than I did in the doc.”
Norton Jones is an activist whose father is Clarence Jones, who was an attorney for Martin Luther King Jr., and whose grandfather was book publisher W.W. Norton.
She accused Simmons of raping her after the pair went out on a date in the 1990s, according to Variety, and was one of three women who spokes to Miller for a segment that aired on Jan. 16.
Simmons has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Norton Jones spoke to the Variety on Saturday regarding Winfrey’s flub, calling it “destabilizing,” especially coming from Winfrey, whom she described as being, “the second most powerful black woman in America after Michelle Obama.”
“She’s talking about the documentary and she’s giving it shade,” Norton Jones said, recalling Winfrey’s interview on CBS. “And this is after she’s already stepped away from the documentary.”
A spokesperson for Winfrey told FOX Business: “We are so sorry that happened, it was not intentional."
Winfrey described earlier in the CBS interview how she, too, was a victim of sexual assault. She was raped at ages 9 and 14, and sexually assaulted throughout that period, she said. But Norton Jones told Variety that given Winfrey’s own experiences, “she should know better.”
“I have this other name [Alexia Norton Strong] on TV, spoken by Oprah Winfrey. What was so painful about it is that, what sexual violence is, it is about erasing you. It is about saying you don’t matter. Right in that moment, Oprah is sharing her own story, about what happened to her. She then inserts her pain into our experience about why she’s stepping away. And at the same time, I don’t have a name.”
Someone could have, and should have, stepped in to correct Winfrey, Norton Jones told Variety.
“It reminds me of when you’re trying to seek help for these things, you’re silenced again. It’s not like I’m important to Oprah or Gayle,” she said, later adding: “The whole thing, it’s been very destabilizing. You don’t want to hear your name on a national news story in the morning said incorrectly, because your name is who you are.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report