Former Grammys chief Neil Portnow accused of rape in new lawsuit

A woman has sued former Grammy chief Neil Portnow, accusing him of drugging and raping her in a New York hotel room in June 2018.

The woman, who is not named in the lawsuit, is described as a musician who once performed at Carnegie Hall and was a former voting member of the Recording Academy, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Grammys. In the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, she accuses Portnow, then chief executive of the Recording Academy, of inviting her to his room, giving her a drink that left her disoriented and subsequently raping her.

In the lawsuit, the woman also accuses the Recording Academy of working to “silence” her to protect its reputation.

Allegations of the sexual assault were first aired in 2020, in a discrimination complaint filed against the Recording Academy by Deborah Dugan, who had been hired to succeed Portnow but was abruptly fired less than a year into her term.

Portnow stepped down as head of the Recording Academy in 2019, following his remark that women needed to “step up” to achieve greater recognition in the music industry.

A spokesperson for Portnow told The Times the allegations are “completely false.”

“The claims are the product of the Plaintiff’s imagination and undoubtedly motivated by Mr. Portnow’s refusal to comply with the Plaintiff’s outrageous demands for money and assistance in obtaining a residence visa for her,” said the spokesperson. “When the first attempt was made to extract money and other benefits … Mr. Portnow, who was at that time President/CEO of the Recording Academy, immediately enlisted the Academy’s HR Department to review the nonsensical text messages and emails that he made immediately available. An outside independent investigation led by top-tier lawyers, reviewed all relevant texts, emails, interviewed witnesses, and found absolutely no proof to support any of the allegations.”

“We continue to believe the claims to be without merit and intend to vigorously defend the Academy in this lawsuit,” the Recording Academy told the Times in a statement.

The New York Times first reported the lawsuit.

Nominations for the 66th Grammy Awards, scheduled for Feb. 4, will be announced on Friday.

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