ROME—One week after Asia Argento accuser Jimmy Bennett told a live Italian television audience that the #MeToo movement pillar had raped him, the Italian actress told her version of events on the same popular Sunday night program Non e l’Arena, or Outside the Arena.
Argento had previously denied having sex with Bennett in California at the Marina Del Rey Ritz-Carlton when he was 17, even after admitting that she and her boyfriend, the late Anthony Bourdain, paid him some $380,000 for his silence in 2018. On the Sunday night program, she did admit the two had indeed had sex, but she likened the encounter to being raped by Harvey Weinstein, explaining how she “froze” when Bennett, then 17, literally “crawled on top of me.”
“When we met at the hotel, I told him, ‘OK, Jimmy we can maybe do a movie together, I can find a part of it,’” she told Massimo Giletti, the host who, the week before, had stopped short of calling Bennett a liar for insisting that a woman could rape a man. “He lit up and we hugged at that moment.”
Then the teenager, who Argento says she considered “like a son,” attacked her.
“He began to kiss me and touch me in a way that was not like a child with his mother, but like a boy with crazy hormones,” she said. “He said he had a sexual attraction for me, and hearing this from him made me freeze. I did not expect it.”
Argento says it was Bennett who pushed her onto the bed, not the other way around as he had insisted the week before. “After the kisses started getting longer and it started with her placing her hands in different ways,” Bennett told Giletti last week. “Following that was when she pushed me onto the bed and took my pants off and undid my belt.”
A defiant Argento, who found no sympathy in the Italian press after going public about being sexually assaulted by Weinstein, said the encounter was not at all how Bennett described it. “He literally jumped on me,” she insisted. “He undressed me, put me sideways on the bed, climbed onto me and had complete sex without even using a condom. I was cold and still. Then he told me that I was his sexual desire since he was 12 years old.”
The Italian actress was fired from the Italian X-Factor after messages she allegedly sent to Rain Dove, #MeToo co-founder Rose McGowan’s partner, about the incident in the California hotel room were leaked. But last week, McGowan issued a Twitter apology to Argento, in which she admittedly “misunderstood the messages Asia exchanged with my partner Rain Dove.”
“I do not feel that it is my place to comment further on what happened at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey hotel in May 2013, save to say that I now appreciate that it was not as I thought it was previously,” McGowan tweeted. “I deeply regret not correcting my mistake sooner and apologize to Asia for not doing so.”
McGowan had earlier insisted that Argento admit to sexually molesting Bennett, doing what they had all hoped Weinstein would do and take responsibility for her actions.
Argento, who wants her job back on X-Factor, tweeted her own response to McGowan. “Although I am grateful to @rosemcgowan for her full apology following her groundless allegations about me, if she had issued it earlier, I may have kept my job on X-Factor and avoided the constant accusations of paedophilia which I have been subjected to in real-life and online.”
Argento also talked about the suicide of her partner Bourdain, who she said comforted her through depression. “I felt desperation, a sense of guilt for not having seen his pain,” she said when asked how she reacted to the news of his suicide. “It was Anthony who protected me when I was the depressed one. He promised me that we could be happy. He gave me the best two years of my life.”
She also said that Ronan Farrow’s explosive New Yorker article that launched the #MeToo movement nearly ruined her life. “Ronan wrote lies,” she said about how he described a continuing relationship between her and Weinstein after the alleged rape. “I never went to dinner, never slept with him or lived with him, and I never worked with him again after the rape.”
“He was at every premiere for my films, in Toronto, at Cannes, in Venice, with his photographer,” she said. “He knew who he had inflicted violence against. He was shrewd, and called his paparazzo to capture smiling photos with the victims. He was like a stalker who appeared at night at the door. He was an ogre.”
The New Yorker stood by Farrow's reporting in a statement to The Daily Beast: “In response to a question about the reaction to her story in Italy, Asia Argento expressed that she felt her story was simplified and condensed, not that Ronan Farrow lied. Our reporting was painstakingly checked with Ms. Argento, and we stand by it and by the care and sensitivity with which we told this complex story.”
On Sunday night, Giletti enlisted his studio audience’s support as he publicly asked X-Factor producers to hire Argento back. The program is running the previously taped episodes with Argento as an initial judge to avoid penalizing the 12 contestants who made it to the semifinals. There is some speculation they will bring Argento back for the final editions, in what would surely be a ratings bonanza for both the program and Argento’s battered reputation.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a statement from the New Yorker.