Italian actress Asia Argento, one of the leading voices of the #MeToo movement, has denied allegations that she had a sexual relationship with a young actor when he was 17.
"I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false," Argento said in a statement to reporter Yashar Ali on Tuesday morning, referring to an article published on Sunday in the New York Times.
The Times reported that Argento, 42, settled allegations made in a notice of intent to sue sent by Jimmy Bennett, who is now 22, for $380,000, months after she accused disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape.
But in her statement, Argento claimed the payment was made by her boyfriend, the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, in order to ease what she describes as Bennett's "severe economic problems."
"Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life," Argento said.
"This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution," she added.
Bennett's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bennett, who played Argento's son in a 2004 movie, says in the notice that he had sex with the actress in a California hotel in 2013, two months after he turned 17, according to the Times. The age of consent in California is 18.
The notice reportedly says the sexual encounter traumatized Bennett and hurt his career. (He is now pursuing a career in music.)
The Times reported that it received documents that included a selfie of Argento and Bennett in bed. It also reported that three people familiar with the case had said the documents were authentic.
In a statement on Monday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said it had "not located any police report alleging criminal activity within our jurisdiction in relation to this incident."
The sheriff's office added that its special victims bureau was attempted to reach out to Bennett and Bennett's representatives "in an effort to appropriately document any potential criminal allegations."
Argento has alleged that Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women, raped her at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 when she was 21.
Weinstein has been indicted on sex crime charges involving three women, although Argento is not one of them. The Oscar-winning producer has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.