Sheryl Lee Ralph Alleges She Was Sexually Assaulted by TV Judge

Sheryl Lee Ralph
Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty Images

Abbott Elementary star and fan-favorite Sheryl Lee Ralph is opening up about an alleged sexual assault from her past, claiming that a “famous TV judge” harmed her at an industry event in front of witnesses but she was told to stay silent for fear of “bad press.”

The remarks made about her experience were shared on the podcast The Way Up With Angela Lee, during which she was asked about her view on the #MeToo movement. This encouraged Ralph to open up about various occasions she’s faced #MeToo moments in her career, with this allegation being the most detailed.

“I’m at a very public place. I was suited. I had my suit on. I was handling my business for the television show I was on at that time. He and I were on the same network,” Ralph said, setting the scene from her past. “This man walked in, grabbed me by the back of my neck, turned me around, and rammed his nasty ass tongue down my throat,” she remembered. “And everybody at the network saw it.”

Sheryl Lee Ralph wins Emmy

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

While she refused to name the TV judge, she did make sure to clarify that it wasn’t Judge Greg Mathis. “I love him. He’s a great man,” she said of Mathis. “Not him at all. He’s a great man. This was another one.”

Ralph’s willingness to open up now stems from her desire to encourage other women to be up front and honest about their experiences. “Speak up, tell your truth, do not carry the burden of the pain … especially if you feel like it’s something you can’t work through,” she noted.

The actress referenced the Mayor of New Orleans at the time, Marc Morial, who served from 1994 to 2002, revealing that he was ready to send authorities to handle the situation, but Ralph instead followed the network’s wish for her to stay silent. During this period of time, Ralph starred in the UPN sitcom Moesha.

“Somebody on the network tapped me on the shoulder saying, ‘Please don’t,'” Ralph recalled. “They did not want any bad press around their show, and did not care what had just happened to me.”

“They saw what happened,” she continued to elaborate. “That’s the kind of stuff that happens. That’s what makes it hard for women to speak up about these things.”

Ralph currently stars as teacher Barbara Howard on ABC’s Abbott Elementary, for which she won the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy in 2022. Listen to the full podcast, below: