Talent show "X-Factor Italy" has reportedly dropped actress and filmmaker Asia Argento, who has recently been enmeshed in a scandal involving a 22-year-old actor who claimed that Argento sexually assaulted him when he was 17 years old.
Argento was previously filmed as one of this season's co-judges of the popular vocal talent show, but will reportedly not return for the upcoming season's live episodes.
What's the background?
Argento — one of the very first women to come out publicly in accusing embattled film mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault — reportedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old actor in 2013 and paid him off monetarily.
Argento was 37 years old at the time the alleged incident occurred. The age of consent in California is 18 years old.
The alleged victim, actor Jimmy Bennett, said that Argento invited him to her hotel room, where she plied him with alcohol, performed oral sex on him, and then had intercourse with him afterward.
A recent report in the New York Times revealed that Argento had reportedly settled with Bennett for a sum of about $380,000.
TMZ later reported that Argento reportedly paid Bennett the money for a post-coital photo.
The outlet reported that they had seen the photo in question, which was reportedly a selfie of Argento snuggled with “then-17-year-old Jimmy Bennett on a bed, shirtless, their foreheads pressed together, her arm over his as they lay with satisfied smiles.”
Journalist Yashar Ali shared a statement from Argento on the matter shortly after it gained traction on the internet.
The statement read:
I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018, as circulated also in national and international news.
I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.
I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett — who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages — unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me. Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of great perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.
[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 we would no longer suffer any further intrusions into our life.
This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution. I have therefore 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.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) August 21, 2018
Is there an investigation?
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. has reportedly opened an investigation into the incident.
In a statement to the New York Times, Bennett explained why he sat on his allegations for so long and admitted that he was “afraid and ashamed” to say anything.
“I tried to seek justice in a way that made sense to me at the time because I was not ready to deal with the ramifications of my story becoming public,” he said. “At the time I believed there was still a stigma to being in the situation as a male in our society. I didn’t think that people would understand the event that took place from the eyes of a teenage boy.”
Bennett went on to explain that he was motivated to go public with the story when Argento outed herself as a victim of Weinstein.
“I did not initially speak out about my story because I choose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me,” Bennett explained. “My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself.”
The former child actor added, “I have had to overcome many adversities in my life, and this is another that I will deal with, in time. I would like to move past this event in my life and today I choose to move forward, no longer in silence.”
What about the show?
Last week, Sky Italia and FreemantleMedia Italia — the companies behind the Italian iteration of the “X-Factor” — announced that Argento — who is one of the show’s judges as of this year — would be cut from the production if the Times story were discovered to be true.
A statement from production read:
Sky Italia and FremantleMedia Italia have read today with great attention and in astonishment the news regarding Asia Argento published by the New York Times.
It should be made clear that Sky Italia and Fremantle did not pick Asia Argento as a judge of X Factor Italy for her commitment to the #Metoo campaign, nor for her personal stances, but rather – as it has always been the case when it came to choose the judges of X Factor Italy – for her musical skills and ability to manage a television role in a show like this.
Skills and abilities widely proven during the show auditions, recorded in recent weeks, as the large audience attending them could easily confirm.
That said, we want to be very clear: if the allegations reported by the New York Times today were to be confirmed, the issue would be absolutely inconsistent with Sky’s ethical principles and values and therefore – in full agreement with FremantleMedia – we would have no choice but to take note of it and put an end to the collaboration with Asia Argento.
In May, Argento patted herself on the back for being involved with the show after being “slut-shamed for months on prime time [TV] and front page of newspapers.”
Especially because I will be working in Italy. Where I was slut-shamed for months on prime time Tv and front page of newspapers. For months. Sweet. Bittersweet.
— Asia Argento (@AsiaArgento) May 29, 2018
What's happening now?
According to a Monday report from The Hollywood Reporter, "X-Factor Italy" has relieved Argento from her co-judging duties in what is an apparent reaction to the ongoing drama involving Bennett.
The report noted that Argento will appear in the Italian talent show's early episodes, but will no longer appear for the live installments.
The report noted that producers fired Argento from the show over the weekend.
An official statement about Argento's discharge has yet to have been issued at the time of this writing.
A new judge has yet to be named, but will reportedly be revealed during the "X-Factor's" Sept. 5 news conference in Milan.
“X-Factor Italy” is scheduled to kick off Sept. 6.