Hundreds of former Playboy staffers and Playmates are speaking out in defense of Hugh Hefner following what they say have been “unfounded allegations” made in A&E’s series about the late magazine founder’s empire.
An “open letter” obtained by People magazine was signed by Playboy employees and former Playboy bunnies and ex-girlfriends of Hefner’s this week, calling the allegations made in the “Secrets of Playboy” 10-part documentary unsubstantiated.
Hefner died in 2017 at the age of 91.
“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,” the letter states, via the outlet. “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.”
An A&E spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a 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.”
Sondra Theodore and Holly Madison are two of Hefner’s former girlfriends who came forward in the series with allegations. Madison, who starred on E!’s “Girls Next Door,” claimed Hefner had a “mountain of revenge porn” and “didn’t want to use protection” during sex. Theodore told Fox News Digital that she was “groomed” by the Playboy founder, who died in 2017.
Some women in the letter who once dated Hefner issued personal statements in his defense.
The Playboy founder’s ex-wife Kimberly Hefner, who was married to the mogul for 21 years, said: “All people should be encouraged to share their individual experience in this world, but no one should be emboldened to re-write the truth at the expense of another person’s character. What the allegers who speak out now seem to ignore is that there were many of us throughout the years who were there with them as well. I’m saddened, mostly, that these accounts take light away from true victims of sexual abuse, and hope that in time those selling lies to defame Hef find peace within their own lives.”
“Holly craved and eagerly longed to be the #1 girlfriend,” Renee “Sloan” Baio, Hefner’s former girlfriend, claimed of Madison.
Former Bunny Barbara Hedden said Hefner’s inner circle “knew Hef had no expectations of anyone.”
Joy Jamieson, a former Playboy Enterprises employee, called Hefner “the kindest man.” “He treated every Bunny with complete respect. He instilled confidence and gave each guest and us the star treatment. I love him. He changed lives for the better! I will forever be grateful to him,” she added.
Other claims made in the series against Hefner include that Playboy bunnies were subject to humiliating monthly weigh-ins.
“If you gained weight, you were going to have a really bad problem,” claimed Susanne Singer, who worked at the Playboy Club in Century City, California, from 1972 until 1984, as quoted by People magazine.
Suzanne Charneski, a Bunny at the Playboy Club in Great Gorge, New Jersey, from 1979 until 1982 also alleged that the brand’s signature style caused physical harm. The look featured a curve-hugging tailored satin leotard, fishnets, tuxedo-style wrist cuffs and choker pieces, towering stilettos, along with fluffy bunny ears and a matching tail.
“The costume has 18 metal stays in, so it took two people to put it on — you would have to hold it in the front and someone would zip it up the back,” she explained, as quoted by the outlet. “If you gained five pounds [with] those 18 metal stays, you couldn’t breathe. Literally.”
In response to the docuseries, a spokesperson for Playboy issued a statement to Fox News.
“Today’s Playboy is not Hugh Hefner’s Playboy,” the statement began. “We trust and validate these women and their stories and we strongly support those individuals who have come forward to share their experiences. As a brand with sex positivity at its core, we believe safety, security, and accountability are paramount.”
“The most important thing we can do right now is actively listen and learn from their experiences,” it continued. “We will never be afraid to confront the parts of our legacy as a company that do not reflect our values today.”
“As an organization with a more than 80% female workforce, we are committed to our ongoing evolution as a company and to driving positive change for our communities,” the statement concluded.