Singer Accuses Former Grammys Host Neil Portnow of Rape

  • November 11, 2023

The former head of the Grammy Awards was sued on Wednesday by a woman who said he drugged her and raped her in a New York hotel room in 2018.

The lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, accuses Neil Portnow, who stepped down as CEO of the Recording Academy in 2019, of sexual battery, and accuses the academy – the non-profit group behind the Grammys – of negligence.

The suit does not name the woman, but describes her as an instrumentalist from outside the United States who once performed at Carnegie Hall. Court documents include redacted correspondence he had with the school in 2018 regarding his complaint.

The case stems from a tumultuous period in the recent history of the Grammys, when Mr Portnow left the institution after women in music “stood up” for more recognition in the industry. His successor, Deborah Dugan, was abruptly terminated in what she called retaliation for accusing the agency of a series of abuses, including a cover-up related to allegations made in the new lawsuit. Those incidents shook the Recording Academy and the wider music industry, but the woman who accused Mr. Portnow has been very quiet in public until now.

“Neil Portnow is giving lip service to women as a stand-up,” said Jeffrey R. Anderson, the plaintiff’s attorney. “But he did wrong to all the women and all the musicians who were oppressed by him and others. This isn’t just about Neil Portnow and it’s not just about the Recording Academy, it’s about the culture of the music and entertainment industry and its double-talk about rape and abuse.”

In a statement, the representative of Mr. Portnow called the allegations false, and said they were “a figment of the complainant’s imagination and no doubt motivated by Mr Portnow’s refusal to comply with the complainant’s outrageous demands for money and assistance in obtaining a residence visa.” his.”

The “latest incarnation” of his allegations, he said, “provides a ‘new and improved’ story, including outrageous and untrue allegations.”

The Recording Academy said in a statement: “We continue to believe that these allegations are unfounded and intend to vigorously defend the School in this case.”

In the case, the plaintiff says he met Mr. Portnow at the Recording Academy event in January 2018, when the Grammys were held in New York. He invited her to the party, and later told her that he would return to New York in the spring. He asked to talk to her at that time to get the book he had started. That June, when Mr. Portnow came to town, he told him to come to the Kitano Hotel, on Park Avenue, where he was staying.

According to the suit, Mr. Portnow greeted her in the lobby and brought her to his room. There he presented her with Grammy memorabilia – including a toiletry tour set and a signed CD – and offered her a glass of wine. He drank but didn’t drink, he said in a suit, and “began to feel himself,” had trouble focusing his eyes and began to lose control of his body. He asked about wine but Mr. Portnow ignored him, and when he said he wanted to go, he replied that there were no taxis to take him home.

The suit says Mr. Portnow then told the woman, “I’ve been thinking about you for a long time,” before she passed out. He awoke several times throughout the night to find her sexually abusing him, including “forcefully” entering her, according to the suit. He was still feeling happy the next morning, and went out from there Mr. Portnow leaving the room to the meeting.

According to the lawsuit, the woman was “confused and conflicted because of her prominence and superiority in the music industry and at the recording school.” It says he filed anonymously to protect his privacy.

Mr Portnow was described in court papers as having ignored the woman’s numerous attempts to contact him afterwards. A few months later, he emailed the Recording Academy officials, telling them that he had been abused by Mr. Port now. In an interview with The New York Times, the woman’s lawyers said she gave her account in detail to Grammy officials.

The complaint includes an image of an email from Mr. Portnow, posted in November 2018, relaying what it said was a personal message from Mr Portnow to a woman.

“Please know that I have always respected you in every way at all times, professionally and personally,” reads the message. “I remember you showing your interest and your belief in the Buddha’s teachings and I found this saying that affects you now: ‘Better than a thousand sayings, one word that brings peace.'”

The woman later filed a police report naming Mr. Portnow, according to the lawsuit. But the woman’s lawyers said in an interview that the district attorney’s office, without elaborating, declined to prosecute.

The woman’s allegations first came to light in 2020, when Ms. Dugan spoke about it briefly when she challenged her dismissal from the recording studio.

The words of Mr. Portnow’s “rise” two years ago — cited at the height of the #MeToo movement — drew widespread criticism, and fueled longstanding complaints that the Grammys failed to adequately recognize female artists. A number of prominent women in the music industry have called for Mr Portnow’s resignation.

Ms Dugan, who was employed as a change agent, had only worked at the school for five months before being put on leave, days before the 2020 event. The higher education institution said it mistreated the employee. But in a discrimination complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ms. Dugan called her retaliation for the shooting, and her complaint included reference to an unnamed “foreign recording artist” who had accused Mr. Portnow of rape.

On Wednesday, the representative of Mr. Portnow said that after the woman’s first case, she “immediately engaged the Human Resources Department of the Learning Center to review the inappropriate text messages and emails that she made immediately available.” An independent external investigation, led by top lawyers, reviewed all relevant documents, emails, interviewed witnesses and found absolutely no evidence to support any of the allegations.”

But the woman’s complaint this week says she was never interviewed as part of the school’s investigation. The lawsuit accuses the school of negligence, saying the organization failed to monitor Mr. Portnow as an employee, and failed to properly investigate the woman’s allegations or take appropriate action against Mr. Portnow. Port now. He left the Grammys in July 2019, at the end of his employment contract.

The lawsuit comes months after the Grammys revealed the financial cost of their conflict with Ms. Dugan. As part of the newly disclosed federal tax return, filed in June, the university said it paid Ms.

Since Mr. After Portnow left the school, he received a hefty salary. According to the latest disclosure, for the year ending July 2022, he received a bonus of $800,000.