Sexual harassment and assault
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TOPSHOT – (COMBO) This combination of pictures created on August 19, 2018 shows a file photo of actor Jimmy Bennett onstage during the 'No Ordinary Family' panel during the summer Television Critics Association press tour on August 1, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California and a file photo of Italian actress Asia Argento as she arrives on May 19, 2018 for the closing ceremony and the screening of the film “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. – Italian actress Asia Argento, who became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement after accusing powerhouse producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, paid hush money to a man who claimed she sexually assaulted him when he was 17, The New York Times reported Sunday August 19, 2018. (Photos by Frederick M. Brown and Loic VENANCE / various sources / AFP)

Weinstein accuser Asia Argento denies sexual relationship with underage teen, claiming extortion

Argento, who previously accused producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, denies having sex in a hotel with musician and actor Jimmy Bennett, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incident. She said boyfriend Bourdain paid Bennett to leave them alone

Italian actress and sexual abuse campaigner Asia Argento denied having had a sexual relationship five years ago with an underage teen, calling the allegations part of “a long-standing persecution”.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Argento, 42, a Harvey Weinstein accuser and leading figure in the #MeToo movement, had paid actor and rock musician Jimmy Bennett US$380,000 over the alleged 2013 incident at a Los Angeles hotel.

Bennett was two months past his 17th birthday at the time of the alleged encounter, while Argento was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.

In a statement Argento said her late boyfriend, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain who committed suicide in June, gave money to Bennett upon the condition that “we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life,”

Asia Argento ‘paid child star Jimmy Bennett, who said she sexually assaulted him’

“I strongly deny and oppose the contents of The New York Times article … as circulated also in national and international news,” a statement issued by her agent said.

“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” it goes on.

Argento says that she was linked to Bennett “during several years by friendship only”.

Argento speaks about being raped by Harvey Weinstein as director Ava Duvernay looks on at right during the closing ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP
The pair had acted together in the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, in which Argento plays Bennett’s troubled mother.

Argento said the friendship “ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett – who was then undergoing severe economic problems and had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages – unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me.”

Rose McGowan urges people not to blame Asia Argento for Anthony Bourdain’s suicide

Addressing the issue of the payment of money to Bennett, Argento explained that Bourdain “was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such a 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 in our life,” the statement said.

“This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution,” Argento said, before pledging to take “all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues”.

Argento arrives for the awards ceremony of the 66th international film festival, in Cannes in 2013. She has accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her in a hotel room in Cannes in 1997. Photo: Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
Argento became a powerful voice for the #MeToo movement after accusing Hollywood producer Weinstein of raping her when she was 21 in his hotel room in 1997 during the Cannes Film Festival.

Bennett’s legal action was launched a month after Argento’s accusations against Weinstein were made public, according to The New York Times report, which added that Bennett’s lawyer claimed his client recalled the hotel encounter after seeing Argento present herself as a victim of sexual assault.

Argento made an emotional speech at this year’s Cannes festival, telling the audience: “Things have changed. We are not going to allow you to get away with it.”

Anthony Bourdain and Argento attend the 2018 Women In The World Summit in New York City. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP
Weinstein’s lawyer Ben Brafman has sought to capitalise on the allegations against Argento, accusing her of “duplicity” and “a stunning level of hypocrisy”.

On Monday police in California said that Argento was not currently under active investigation over the Times report but that “enquiries will be made”.

The reality singing television show X Factor Italy on which Argento is a judge has said it would cut ties with her if the allegation was confirmed.