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Pressured by Simmons Over Exposé, Oprah Winfrey Faced a Big Decision

In an online video, Mr. Simmons discussed how to challenge the credibility of women by asking “how many times they went to jail, to a mental institution, have they accused five or more people, what does their father say.”

He added: “Questions that were not asked before may now be asked, and our sister may be embarrassed.”

Sil Lai Abrams, who accused Mr. Simmons of raping her in 1994, said she immediately felt that the “mental institution” line referred to her; the day after the alleged attack, she said, she attempted suicide. “He is using very dark tactics to intimidate and terrorize me and the others,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Dixon felt targeted by the line about fathers. A few weeks ago, she said, her father was approached by an old acquaintance, Yolanda Caraway, who asked him whether Ms. Dixon had ever falsely accused any man of sexual misconduct. The meeting rattled Ms. Dixon, who said she immediately suspected that Mr. Simmons was behind it.

“He is trying to muzzle our voices again,” she said.

Ms. Caraway, a longtime political operative in Washington, acknowledged that she had met with Ms. Dixon’s father, Arrington Dixon, a former City Council member. She added: “The conversation I had with anybody is none of your business.” Ms. Dixon’s representative at the time, Ann Walker Marchant, said that she called Ms. Caraway to ask whether she was working for Mr. Simmons, and that Ms. Caraway responded: “He’s my friend.”

Ms. Winfrey said she took her concerns to the filmmakers with an ultimatum.

“We need to pull from Sundance until we can give ourselves a chance to retool this film,” Ms. Winfrey said she told them, “or I am going to have to take my name off.”

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