Amid allegations that the Italian actress sexually assaulted former child star Jimmy Bennett during a hotel meet-up in 2013, she will be replaced as a judge on the show, according to local media reports. While Argento will still appear in the first seven prerecorded shows, she will be replaced in the live installments by a judge who has not yet been named. The show will premiere Sept. 6 and the live shows will start on Oct. 25.
Producers for the show have yet to release an official statement, and reps for Argento have not responded to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment. However, when a New York Times exposé came out reporting Argento paid Bennett a $380,000 settlement — allegedly arranged by her now late boyfriend Anthony Bourdain after Bennett alleged that she sexually assaulted him when he was 17 — Sky Italia e FremantleMedia Italia said in a statement, “We want to be very clear: If what the New York Times reports is confirmed, this would be completely incompatible with the ethical principles and values of Sky and therefore — in full agreement with FremantleMedia — we” would “cease the collaboration with Asia Argento.”
Argento, a #MeToo movement activist and one of disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein‘s most outspoken accusers, denied having any sexual relationship with Bennett. She did admit that Bourdain — who committed suicide in June — arranged to pay off Bennett, whom he considered “dangerous,” to get him out of her life.
Argento has shared several photos of herself on the set of X Factor Italy, a gig she plunged into after the death of Bourdain:
Soon after the allegations came to light, TMZ posted a selfie of Argento and Bennett in bed together — as well as texts between Argento and a “friend” about the allegations against her. One of the texts, which she has not confirmed are hers, reads, “I had sex with him it felt weird. I didn’t know he was minor until the shakedown letter.” In the messages purportedly from Argento, she also wrote that the age of consent is younger in Italy (it’s 14), and said that if she loses her job, presumably on X Factor Italy, she “move to Africa or the Amazon forest. I want to be among the 90% of the world that doesn’t give a f*** about this s***. Not the conniving, sick 10% of the entitled westerners.”
Bennett, now 22 and a musician, broke his silence about the New York Times story after the photo of them in bed surfaced. After mentioning the #MeToo Movement, he wrote, “I did not initially speak out about my story because I chose to handle it in private with the person who wronged me. My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself. I have not made a public statement in the past days and hours because I was ashamed and afraid to be part of the public narrative.” He added that he was “underage” when the “event took place” and he sought 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. 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 — who once sued his parents, alleging they took more than $1 million of his wages — has seen his character attacked since the story broke. As for Argento, there hasn’t exactly been overwhelming support. Some of Weinstein’s other accusers, including Argento’s close pal Rose McGowan and Mira Sorvino, expressed shock but said they were waiting for the full story to come out. Rosanna Arquette publicly speculated about whether Harvey Weinstein was behind the settlement being made public. Over the weekend, Argento received support from British actress Lysette Anthony, also a Weinstein accuser, who said she “cannot stand by” while Argento “is hurled under a bus. She has been extraordinarily courageous standing up to Weinstein. And now she’s being punished. She’s being vilified and abused.”
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