Leading MeToo activist Asia Argento denies sexual relationship with underage actor Jimmy Bennett

Asia Argento, the actress and leading #MeToo activist, has denied having a relationship with a teenage boy who accused her of sexual misconduct.

Argento, 42, has been accused of sexual assault by Jimmy Bennett, a young actor, who says he was 17 when the incident took place in  in a California hotel room in 2013. The age of consent int he state is 18.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has said it is looking into the allegations.

In a statement on Tuesday the Italian actress, who became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement after accusing Harvey Weinstein of assaulting her, admitted money had been paid to Mr Bennett but denied sleeping with him.

She said the original New York Times article making the allegations had left her "deeply shocked and hurt".

Argento said: "I was linked to him by friendship only."

She claimed Bennett had been experiencing "severe economic problems" and made an "exorbitant request of money" from her.

The actress said that her late boyfriend, the chef Anthony Bourdain, decided to "deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him".

According to the New York Times the actress settled a legal notice of intent to sue, filed by Bennett, who is now 22, for $380,000 shortly after she said last October that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein raped her.