Former Playboy Employees, and Even Ex-Wives, Defend Hugh Hefner Amid “Secrets of Playboy” Allegations
Playboy insiders of yore are coming to Hefner's defense in the wake of new accusations
As predicted, Hugh Hefner and his Playboy empire are currently facing a bit of a reckoning amid allegations of misconduct revealed in the new A&E docuseries, Secrets of Playboy. Naturally, as is typically the case when a beloved white man is accused of wrongdoing, the late Playboy founder has received an outpouring of support amid the allegations, with a group of former Playboy employees and others associated with the brand penning a letter in Hefner’s defense.
“We sign our names to support Hugh M. Hefner. From all we know of Hef, he was a person of upstanding character, exceptional kindness, and dedication to free thought,” reads the letter obtained by People. “He demonstrated a commitment to living an honest life beyond everything else. Our time within Hugh Hefner’s Playboy and the organization’s subsidiaries remains a period all of us are fond of. I proudly sign this letter in recognition of Hugh Hefner’s character amid unfounded allegations in the A&E show.”
Among the hundreds of letter signers are former Playboy Bunnies, Playmates, employees and ex-wives and girlfriends of Hefner, and they’re not the first to come forward in the Playboy founder’s defense. Cooper Hefner — one of Hugh Hefner’s two sons with ex-wife Kimberly Conrad, who is herself among the letter signers — preemptively defended his father in a tweet ahead of the series’ premiere, writing, “Some may not approve of the life my Dad chose, but my father was not a liar. However unconventional, he was sincere in his approach and lived honestly. He was generous in nature and cared deeply for people. These salacious stories are a case study of regret becoming revenge.”
The accusations leveled against Hefner and others responsible for perpetuating an allegedly toxic culture within the Playboy empire include claims of sexual misconduct perpetrated by Hefner and other members of his inner circle. Jennifer Saginor, the daughter of Hefner’s close friend and doctor, claimed the Playboy founder made sexual advances toward her while she was underage. Holly Madison, a former girlfriend and star of the E! reality series The Girl Next Door, claimed Hefner plied her and other women with drugs, and took and distributed nude photos of women without their consent while they were under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Madison also claimed the various forms of mistreatment she suffered at Hefner’s hands during their eight-year relationship at one point left her suicidal. Sondra Theodore, another former girlfriend of Hefner’s, also opened up about being mistreated by the Playboy founder, who she started dating when she was 19 and he was 50. According to Theodore, Hefner intentionally pursued young, innocent women with the intent of “soiling” them, pressured her to solicit partners for group sex and even tried to have sex with her dog.
The most recent episode of the series, which aired on Monday, revealed a number of allegations of abuse related to the Playboy Clubs, including accusations that multiple Playboy Bunnies were assaulted with Hefner’s knowledge. According to former Bunny Mother PJ Masten, incidents involving Playboy Bunnies were reported to Hefner and covered up by Playboy’s “cleanup crew.”
In response to the letter, A&E offered the following statement: “The stories shared in Secrets of Playboy are the personal experiences of the documentary’s participants and deserve to be told despite how difficult they may be for some to hear. Signatures on a letter, or a different experience with Mr. Hefner or the Playboy culture, do not negate the experiences of those who have come forward to share their truth on the series and we look forward to continuing to bring these stories to light.”
The new leadership of Playboy, which has been completely divorced from Hefner and his descendants since 2019, has also shown support for the women who have shared their experiences in the docuseries. “First and foremost, we want to say: we trust and validate women and their stories, and we strongly support the individuals who have come forward to share their experiences,” the statement reads. “As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security and accountability are paramount, and anything less is inexcusable.”
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