A report in the New York Times earlier this week uncovered a secret hush payment made to former child actor, Jimmy Bennett, who had accused his former co-star, Asia Argento, of sexually assaulting him in 2013, when he was 17 years old.
Argento has now responded to the allegations. In an issued statement, Argento called the New York Times story “absolutely false” and denied ever having a sexual relationship with Bennett. She accused Bennett of extortion and said that her late boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, himself sent the hush payment to avoid “possible negative publicity.”
“Bennett – who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously untaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages — unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me,” Argento said in her statement.
“Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. 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. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that he would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
In light of the story going public, Argento said she has “no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues.”
Read Argento’s full statement below.
The Italian actress, who was one of the first to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, is alleged to have had sexual intercourse with Bennett at a Los Angeles hotel in 2013. Argento and Bennett appeared together in the 2004 film, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.
In November 2017, a month after Argento came forward with her own accusations of assault against Weinstein, Bennett sent Argento a notice of intent to sue, according to the New York Times. In the notice, Bennett explained that seeing Argento “present herself as a victim of sexual assault was too much to bear… and called up memories of their hotel reunion.” Bennett asked for $3.5 million in damages for “the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery.”
According to documents obtained by the Times, Argento agreed to pay $380,000 over the course of a year and a half, starting with an initial payment of $200,000 that was made in April. Under terms of the deal, Bennett relinquished the copyright of an intimate photo he took with Argento in bed.
After the Times published its story, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced its intent to investigate the allegations made against Argento.
Bourdain died by suicide earlier this year.