NEW YORK (Reuters) - Music and film producer Russell Simmons faced new accusations of sexual misconduct from nine woman dating back to 1983, including four who alleged he raped them, and New York police have opened an investigation, police and U.S. newspapers said on Thursday.
In an emailed statement on Thursday, the 60-year-old co-founder of Def Jam Records denied the accusations from the nine women reported on Wednesday by the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
"These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual," Simmons said in the statement.
Simmons, one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the hip-hop world, said last month that he was stepping down from his production and fashion businesses after a screenwriter said he sexually assaulted her in 1991. He has denied the incident and said that he remembered it differently than the accuser.
The statement said the current accusations "range from the patently untrue to the frivolous and hurtful. The presumption of innocent until proven guilty must not be replaced by 'Guilty by Accusation.'"
The Los Angeles Times and New York Post reported on Thursday that the New York City Police Department had opened an investigation into Simmons and was in the early stages of contacting women who have accused him of assault.
"The NYPD has received information regarding allegations involving Russell Simmons in the NYC area and our detectives are in the process of reviewing that information," New York police Sergeant Brendan Ryan said in an email to Reuters.
Reuters could not independently confirm any of the accusations against Simmons.
Simmons also founded the fashion lines Phat Farm and Tantris, and co-produced films and TV shows including "The Nutty Professor" and "Def Comedy Jam."
The allegations of rape reported by the New York Times were between 1988 and 1995 from a music journalist, a singer he managed and a former executive producer at Def Jam Records.
The new allegations reported by the Los Angeles Times dated back to 1983 for one from a member of an all-female hip-hop group who claimed Simmons raped her and included another from a massage therapist who said he exposed himself and asked her to touch him.
In an Instagram post on Thursday, Simmons used the hashtag #NotMe, in contrast with the #MeToo hashtag used by millions of women on social media to share their stories of sexual abuse.
"Today, I begin to properly defend myself," Simmons wrote. "My intention is not to diminish the #MeToo movement in anyway, but instead hold my accusers accountable. #NotMe."
In his statement responding to the accusations, Simmons said he had already apologized for "instances of thoughtlessness" in his consensual relationships.
"What I will not accept is responsibility for what I have not done," the statement said. "I will relentlessly fight against any untruthful character assassination that paints me as a man of violence."
Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Additional reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alden Bentley