Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Asia Argento, a prominent leader of the #MeToo movement, has released a statement denying that she sexually assaulted actor Jimmy Bennett when he was 17.
The denial comes after documents obtained by The New York Times via an encrypted email sent by an unknown party have shown that Argento arranged to pay Bennett, now 22, $380,000 for sexually assaulting him.
Bennett was 7 years old when he starred in the 2004 film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things with Argento, who played his mother. Argento also directed the project.
I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018," Argento's statement, first released by reporter Yashar Ali on Twitter Tuesday, said.
"I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett," she continued, before stating that Bennett targeted her for money due to financial issues he was going through after her public profile was raised from helping start the #MeToo movement.
Argento also says that Bennett knew of her late boyfriend, chef Anthony Bourdain, and that it was Bourdain's idea to send Bennett the payment in order to avoid any negative press. "Anthony insisted the matter be handled privately and this was also what Bennett wanted. Anthony was afraid of the possible negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us," she 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," Argento said.
Bourdain died in June after committing suicide at the age of 61.
Argento, in October, accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment alongside 13 other women which help start the #MeToo movement. The actress and filmmaker also gave a speech at the Cannes Film Festival in May about Weinstein and his sexual misconduct through the years at the event.