Former Grammys head accused of rape
NEW YORK, United States, (AFP) – The former head of the organisation behind the Grammy Awards on Wednesday was sued by a musician who accused him of drugging and raping her in 2018.
The New York Times, which first reported the story, says the state suit filed in Manhattan accuses Neil Portnow — who stepped down as head of the Recording Academy in 2019 over his disparaging comments toward women — of sexual battery. It also accuses the Academy of negligence.
In a statement to AFP, the Recording Academy vowed to “vigorously defend the Academy in this lawsuit.”
“We continue to believe the claims to be without merit,” it said.
The suit does not name the woman in order to maintain her privacy.
A representative for Portnow did not immediately reply to AFP, but in the Times story, he flatly denied the allegations.
The suit revives criticism of both Portnow and the Academy that led to the powerful executive leaving in 2019 after 17 years, following his controversial comments that women should “step up” to gain more recognition for their work in an industry dominated by white men.
The new court documents, according to the Times, say the female artist met Portnow at a Grammy-related event in New York, which hosted the awards in 2018.
She alleges he invited her to his hotel room and offered her wine, which she drank before beginning “to feel woozy.” Portnow did not drink, the suit says.
The woman said she wanted to leave but Portnow said there were no taxis.
She then lost consciousness shortly after the former executive told her: “I have been thinking about you for a very long time.”
According to the suit, the woman awoke throughout the night experiencing Portnow raping her, and was still woozy the next morning.
The paper says she was concerned over his power in the industry, but that months later, she gave her account to Academy officials and was ignored.
The suit also says the woman filed a police report against Portnow, but that law enforcement authorities at the time declined to prosecute.
The accusation was first described in 2020, when Portnow’s replacement as the head of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan, filed an explosive discrimination complaint against the institution.
Her 44-page filing claimed she was suspended after raising concerns of sexual harassment, voting irregularities and other misconduct within one of music’s most powerful organisations.
In her complaint, Dugan included the rape allegation, which Portnow also denied at the time.
Portnow’s 2018 comments that women should “step up” — delivered as the #MeToo movement was exploding — was the cherry on top of a mountain of criticism alleging the Academy overwhelmingly favoured white male artists.