UPDATED with statement from Deborah Dugan’s attorneys: Former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow says a bombshell rape allegation made against him this week is “ludicrous and untrue.” It is his first response to the claim made by his successor Deborah Dugan in an EEOC filing that Portnow raped an unidentified female recording artist.
“This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me,” he said in a statement to media outlets (read it in full below). “The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue.”
The allegation was made by Dugan, who was ousted as president and CEO of the Recording Academy last week ahead of Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
Dugan became the Academy’s first female chief executive in May replacing Portnow, whose 17-year tenure ended soon after he suggested following the 2018 Grammys that female artists should “step up” in response to a lack of awards representation.
Dugan’s attorneys issued a statement Wednesday addressing Portnow’s reply: “Mr. Portnow’s statement is only the most recent in a series of defamatory attacks aimed at Ms. Dugan because she is a women who has shown the courage to stand up for what is right,” said Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin of Wigdor LLP. “When read carefully, it is clear that Mr. Portnow does not even deny that an allegation of rape was made, although the statement appears wordsmithed to leave the false impression that there was no allegation. We and Ms. Dugan stand behind her EEOC charge 100%.
“Mr. Portnow denies ‘demanding’ $750,000 for a consultancy,” the lawyers added. “However, Ms. Dugan’s charge does not allege that he made such a demand. What Ms. Dugan knows is that the then-Chair of the Recording Academy’s Board, John Poppo, requested that she hire Mr. Portnow as a consultant and pay him $750,000, before she was ever told about the rape allegation. Moreover, Ms. Dugan does not believe that the full Board had even been told about the proposed consultancy or the rape allegation at that time.”
According to her labor complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dugan said she “came to learn after she agreed to take the CEO position — for which she was paid substantially less than her two male predecessors — Mr. Portnow also allegedly raped a female recording artist, which was, upon information and belief, the real reason his contract was not renewed.”
Dugan made a separate claim of sexual harassment against Joel Katz, the Recording Academy’s general counsel. In a statement released Tuesday through his attorney, Katz “categorically” denied the charge.
Here is Portnow’s full statement:
This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me. Here is what is true:
The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue. The suggestion that there was is disseminating a lie. The baseless complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the Board of Director’s Executive Committee. An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally.
I fulfilled the terms and responsibilities of my contract during my 17 years as President and ultimately Chief Executive Officer. Consistent with my pledge to ensure that there would be the appropriate amount of time for the Academy to organize and execute an efficient and transparent transition, I determined far in advance of the GRAMMY telecast in 2018 that I would not seek a further extension of my contract scheduled to end July 31, 2019. I informed the then Board Chair and Executive Committee of my decision. At no time did I ever demand a $750,000 consulting fee.
After making the ‘step up’ comment during the 2018 telecast, for which I have apologized and deeply regret the offense caused, and understanding the power of listening and lessons learned, I took action. I proposed, and the Academy created an independent Task Force to review the state of diversity & inclusion across the organization. After presenting the Task Force plan and proposed study of the organization to the board, the group was created to implement change. Task Force Chair Tina Tchen made a presentation to the full Board during a May 2019 meeting.
The repetition of these falsehoods against me, and others referenced within the EEOC filing are a diversionary tactic and will not convert them to truth. I will vigorously defend all false claims made against me in this document.
I would like to wish all the 2020 nominees and those in our creative community well and sincerely hope that they will celebrate their art and accomplishments this weekend at the Grammy Awards telecast and during the many Grammy Week events ahead.”
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