Asia Argento has released a statement denying the sexual assault claim made in a recent New York Times report.
On Sunday, the NYT reported that Italian actress Argento agreed to pay former child actor Jimmy Bennett $380,000, after he accused her of sexual battery in a notice of intent to sue sent by his attorney to Argento's in Nov. 2017, a month after Argento had come forward with an allegation of rape against Harvey Weinstein. Now, in a statement on Tuesday, Argento says she "strongly" denies and opposes the "contents of the New York Times article."
"I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false," she states. "I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett."
"I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended, when 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," Argento's statement continues. "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," the statement reads. "Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us. We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett's demand for help and to 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."
"This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution," Argento's statement concludes. "I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues."
Bourdain passed away in June at the age of 61, CNN confirmed at the time that his cause of death was suicide.
In response to Argento's statement, a New York Times spokesperson tells E! News, "We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting, which was based on verified documents and multiple sources. It is worth noting that Ms. Argento, her lawyer and agent were contacted repeatedly and given four days to respond to the story that published in The Times on Sunday."