FILE - This Feb. 10, 2019 file photo shows then President and CEO of The Recording Academy Neil Portnow at the 61st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Portnow says a rape allegation against him aired in a complaint against the Recording Academy by his successor is “false and outrageous.” Portnow released a statement saying the academy during his tenure had conducted a thorough and independent investigation and he was “completely exonerated.” (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

Ex-Grammys CEO says rape allegation 'false and outrageous'

January 22, 2020 - 2:29 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow said Wednesday that a rape allegation against him aired in a complaint against the Recording Academy by his successor is “false and outrageous.”

Portnow released a statement saying that the academy during his tenure had conducted a thorough and independent investigation of the rape accusation and he was “completely exonerated.”

On Tuesday, just days before the Grammy Awards, ousted academy CEO Deborah Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission asserting that she had been subjected to retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by an academy attorney and for calling out the “boys club” culture that pervades the institution.

Dugan said she learned during her six-month stint as CEO that she had learned Portnow had been accused of rape by a foreign recording artist and academy member after a performance at Carnegie Hall. The artist was not named.

“This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me," Portnow said. “There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally.”

Dugan's attorneys did not immediately comment on Portnow's statement.

Portnow, a 72-year-old former record label executive, did not seek an extension of his contract and left the academy CEO post last year after 17 years. He had come under fire for saying women need to “step up” when asked backstage at the 2018 Grammy Awards why only two female acts won awards during the live telecast. Portnow again apologized for the comment on Wednesday.

Dugan also said in her EEOC complaint that she had been pressured to hire Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 per year. Portnow said Wednesday that he never demanded such a fee.

Dugan's being put on administrative leave last week, and the wide range of allegations she aired in her complaint, which also criticized the awards nomination process, put the academy on the defensive and threatened to throw the institution into tumult at its most important time of year, during a usually celebratory week of parties and special events leading up to Sunday's Grammys in Los Angeles.

The academy said in response to her filing that Dugan's complaints to a human resources executive in December about sexual harassment and other issues came only after she was accused of abusive behavior toward the executive assistant she inherited from Portnow, which Dugan denied.

The academy said in a statement Tuesday that it “immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan’s potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations," which have yet to be completed.

The academy said its first loyalty was to its artists.

“We regret that music’s biggest night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan's actions.”

Joel Katz, an influential music attorney and the academy's general counsel who Dugan said tried to woo her romantically and attempted to kiss her against her wishes during a dinner last year, issued a statement with his attorney Howard Weitzman late Tuesday saying he “categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening.”

“Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the board of trustees of the academy, and others, were dining,” Weitzman's statement read.

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton.

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