"I strongly deny and oppose the contents of the New York Times article dated 20 August 2018, as circulated also in national and international news," she said in a statement released Tuesday morning through journalist Yashir Ali. "I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false. I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett."
The actress and filmmaker, who was one of the loudest voices at the height of the #MeToo movement when she publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her, accused former child actor Jimmy Bennett of trying to extort money not just from her, but her late boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain.
"I was linked to him during several years by friendship only, which ended when, subsequent to my exposure in the Weinstein case, Bennett -- who was then undergoing severe economic problems and who had previously undertaken legal actions against his own family requesting millions in damages -- unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me," she continued. "Bennett knew my boyfriend, Anthony Bourdain, was a man of perceived wealth and had his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect."
According to Argento, it was Bourdian's idea to handle the matter privately, resulting in the $380,000 settlement The New York Times uncovered.
"Anthony was afraid of the possibly negative publicity that such person, whom he considered dangerous, could have brought upon us," Argento's statement continued. "We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett's demand for help and give it to him. Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life."
According to the Times report, Bennett threatened to sue her over allegations that she sexually assaulted him in a Southern California hotel room in 2013 when he was 17 and she was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
The documents obtained by the Times claimed that in result of the "sexual battery" the young star faced emotional trauma which affected his mental health. Bennett made the claims privately against Argento through legal representatives just weeks after she publicly came forward in the Weinstein scandal, claiming the movie mogul raped her when she was 21.
Bennett was 7 when he co-starred with Argento in 2004's "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things" -- a film she acted in, co-wrote, and directed. They played a mother and son in the movie. Neither Bennett or Argento have responded to TooFab's request for comment since the story broke.
"This is, therefore, the umpteenth development of a sequence of events that brings me great sadness and that constitutes a long-standing persecution," Argento's statement concluded. "I have therefore no other choice but to oppose such false allegations and will assume in the short term all necessary initiatives for my protection before all competent venues."