Former Grammy CEO Neil Portnow has vehemently denied a rape allegation levied against him by suspended Grammy CEO Deborah Dugan, who was placed on administrative leave a mere 10 days before the upcoming awards ceremony. Dugan made this allegation in a sexual harassment and defamation complaint filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where she alleged that Portnow was accused of raping an unnamed “foreign recording artist” after a show at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
Dugan alleged that members of the Recording Academy board discussed the rape allegations against Dugan last May, although the artist is not explicitly named in her complaint. The document does claim however that “a psychiatrist has confirmed that the sexual encounter between her (the accuser) and Mr. Portnow was likely not consensual.”
Portnow has denied the allegations, stating that an independent investigation had exonerated him from the rape allegation, and further denied an allegation made by Dugan that he had sought out a $750,000 consulting fee. Dugan had originally replaced Portnow last year, after the latter came under fire for comments regarding women in the music industry.
“The allegations of rape are ludicrous and untrue,” Portnow stated in response to these allegations. “The suggestion that there was [a rape] 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 directors’ 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.”
This complaint also alleged that Dugan was sexually harassed by the Academy’s legal counsel and former board member Joel Katz, and made further claims that she was placed on leave after she threatened to take legal action in response to this alleged misconduct.
Dugan’s lawyers, Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin state ” As we allege, the attempt by the Recording Academy to impugn the characters of Deborah Dugan is a transparent effort to shift the focus away from its own unlawful activity.”
Read Portnow’s full statement below:
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 Directors’ 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.