Two days after a report detailed an accusation of sexual assault against #MeToo activist Asia Argento, the Italian actress and filmmaker said she never had a sexual relationship with the young actor whom she agreed to pay $380,000 in a settlement.
The Guardian reports that the claims, which were first published by the New York Times on Monday, concern an alleged incident at a Southern California hotel in 2013, when Bennett was 17. According to the report, Argento had settled the notice of intent to sue filed by Bennett, who is now 22, for $380,000 last October.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” Argento said in a statement obtained by the Guardian.
Argento said that she and Bennett had been “linked in friendship only”, but that Bennett had made the claims after she had made her own allegations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein last October. Argento alleged that Weinstein assaulted her in a Cannes hotel in 1997. Weinstein has denied all claims of non-consensual sex made against him.
“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,” she said.
Argento said that her partner, the late chef Anthony Bourdain, made the payment to avoid “negative publicity”. Bourdain was found dead in a hotel room in June, aged 61.
“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 a person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us,” Argento said.
“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 in our life.”
The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department have said investigators will seek to talk to Bennett or his representatives about the alleged incident.