Asia Argento, the Italian actress and director who has positioned herself as a leading figure in the #MeToo movement, pushed back Tuesday against a New York Times report that she had arranged to pay the actor Jimmy Bennett after he accused her of sexually assaulting him when he was 17.
In a statement, Ms. Argento said she had never had sex with Mr. Bennett. Hours later, Mr. Bennett’s lawyer, Gordon K. Sattro, said that her denial was false and that he was working with his client on a statement.
The two responses were the first public comment from either side since The Times approached the actors with questions about documents showing that Ms. Argento had arranged to pay $380,000 to Mr. Bennett, after he notified her last November that he would sue over their May 2013 encounter in a California hotel room. The age of consent in that state is 18.
Ms. Argento, who for five days has not responded to The Times’s requests for comment, forcefully denied Tuesday that she had assaulted Mr. Bennett.
“I am deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false,” she said in a statement circulated on social media. “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.”
His claim, she said, “constitutes a longstanding persecution.”
The Times had been sent documents, through encrypted email by an unidentified party, that included a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of Mr. Bennett and Ms. Argento lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42. Three people familiar with the case said the documents were authentic.
“We are confident in the accuracy of our reporting, which was based on verified documents and multiple sources,” said Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokeswoman for The Times. “It is worth noting that Ms. Argento, her lawyer and agent were contacted repeatedly and given four days to respond to the story that published in The Times on Sunday.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Monday that it was aware of Mr. Bennett’s claims and had reached out to the young actor and his representatives in order to document any possible criminal activity. Mr. Sattro, the actor’s lawyer, said he had not yet responded to the inquiry.
The documents obtained by The Times, including private communication between Ms. Argento and Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer based in New York, characterized the $380,000 payment as “helping Mr. Bennett.”
Ms. Argento was romantically involved with Anthony Bourdain, the culinary and travel personality who killed himself in June. In her statement, she said he had helped her navigate the claim and finance the payments, which began with a $200,000 lump sum in April.
Ms. Argento said in the statement that Mr. Bennett was in trouble financially and knew Mr. Bourdain “as a man of great perceived wealth and his own reputation as a beloved public figure to protect.”
Mr. Bourdain, she said, feared the publicity that the claim might bring and suggested the matter be handled privately.
“We decided to deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him,” Ms. Argento wrote. “Anthony personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any further intrusions in our life.”
Kimberly Witherspoon, Mr. Bourdain’s longtime agent and a spokeswoman for his wife, Ottavia Busia, from whom he was separated, would not comment on Ms. Argento’s statement.
In the agreement between the two actors, $10,000 payments were to be made monthly, with the final payment due on Oct. 1, 2019, according to a schedule of payments included in the agreement. Mr. Sattro said that $90,000 remains outstanding.
Mr. Bennett, a child actor who charmed Harrison Ford and Bruce Willis and earned the nickname Jimmy Two-Takes because he rarely flubbed his lines, said he felt betrayed when he saw Ms. Argento come forward in October with her story about being sexually assaulted by the movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
Mr. Weinstein has pleaded not guilty to six felony counts in New York, including first-degree rape; none are related to Ms. Argento. His lawyers have said their relationship was consensual.