Musician Sues Former Grammys CEO Neil Portnow, Accuses Him of Rape

CW: This post contains mentions of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

Former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow has been accused of drugging and raping an unidentified musician in his New York hotel room in 2018.

According to the New York Times, the lawsuit was filed by a Jane Doe described as an instrumentalist from outside the United States who once performed at Carnegie Hall.

“Neil Portnow gives lip service to women as standing up,” Jane Doe’s lawyer Jeffrey R. Anderson said. “But he does a disservice to every woman and every musician who is being oppressed by him and others. This is not just about Neil Portnow and not just about the Recording Academy, but about the culture in the music and entertainment industry and its doublespeak about rape and abuse.”

The Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, has also been named in the suit for alleged negligence.

The woman claims she met Portnow at a Recording Academy event in Jan. 2018 and asked to interview him for a publication she started when he planned on returning to New York in the spring. In June, Portnow allegedly told her to meet him in the lobby of Kitano Hotel and brought her up to his room.

She was allegedly given a glass of wine by Portnow and “began to feel woozy” after drinking it. The woman also alleges in the suit to have trouble focusing her eyes and feeling as though she was losing control of her body. Portnow allegedly ignored her questions about the wine and dismissed her requests to go home, claiming there were no taxis available.

The woman allegedly lost consciousness after Portnow said, “I have been thinking about you for a very long time.” She recalls waking up several times throughout the night, including instances where he was sexually assaulting her. She woke up feeling unwell the following morning. The woman left the room after Portnow departed to attend a meeting.

She was admittedly “confused and conflicted given his prominence and stature in the music industry and the Recording Academy,” as stated in the lawsuit.

The woman allegedly tried reaching out to Portnow numerous times, but he ignored her. She sent an email to the Recording Academy informing them that she was sexually harrassed by Portnow and provided a detailed account of the incident to Grammy officials several months later.

A rep for Portnow denied the allegations, calling it a “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.”

Portnow’s rep claims this is the “latest incarnation” of accusations, featuring “a ‘new and improved’ story, padding it with even more outrageous and untrue allegations.”

Portnow stepped down as Recording Academy CEO in 2019 after he was accused of using money from the Grammys charity MusiCares to help cover the cost of moving the annual ceremony to New York. Portnow also came under fire for telling a reporter that female artists need to “step up” when asked about gender representation at the 2018 Grammys.

Only one woman won a Grammy in a solo category that year.