By Ryan Faughnder and Meg James
Los Angeles Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The revelation that actress Eliza Dushku was paid 9.5 million dollars to settle harassment allegations at CBS came to light during a review of workplace culture at CBS.
Los Angeles Times
Eliza Dushku, an actress on the popular CBS show “Bull,” was paid $9.5 million to confidentially settle allegations that she was dismissed from the series after she complained about being harassed on set, sources confirmed to The Times on Thursday.
Dushku was featured in the first season of the CBS procedural drama, playing a criminal defense lawyer.
According to a detailed report by the New York Times, she confronted “Bull” star Michael Weatherly about comments he made that left her uncomfortable. The alleged remarks included references to her appearance and a rape joke, according to the Times’ report.
The revelations were uncovered during a broad review of CBS’ workplace culture prompted by sexual misconduct allegations against longtime Chief Executive Leslie Moonves. Multiple women have accused the former executive of making unwanted advances. Moonves resigned under pressure in September but the investigation, at the behest of CBS’ board, continued.
CBS confirmed the existence of the settlement with Dushku, whose credits also include “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
“The allegations in Ms. Dushku’s claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done,” the broadcaster said in its statement. “The settlement of these claims reflects the projected amount that Ms. Dushku would have received for the balance of her contract as a series regular, and was determined in a mutually agreed upon mediation process at the time.”
The settlement, reached in January, came after she went through mediation with CBS. By that time, CBS had become aware of allegations of sexual misconduct involving Moonves.
The investigators, attorneys at two high-profile New York law firms, Debevoise & Plimpton and Covington & Burling, have interviewed more than 350 people at various divisions, including CBS Entertainment in Studio City and CBS News, based in New York.
The investigators are winding down their review, and they are expected to deliver a report to CBS’ board in the coming days, according to knowledgeable people. The result of the investigation will help determine whether the board has justification to fire Moonves for cause, denying him his $120-million severance package.
A draft of the investigators’ findings was leaked to the New York Times last week. Such disclosures have complicated the review because participants had been told that their conversations would be kept confidential. The breach could give Moonves an opening to challenge the review.
The investigators, according to the draft report, have concluded that CBS’ board has justification to fire Moonves with cause. Moonves was “evasive and untruthful at times and … deliberately lied about, and minimized the extent of his sexual misconduct,”the draft report said.
Weatherly, who couldn’t be reached for comment, made several comments directed at Dushku that she found demeaning, according to the New York Times’ description of the report. In one incident Dushku described to investigators, she made a gesture with three fingers and, in response, Weatherly suggested she wanted a threesome with him and another cast member. While shooting a scene involving a windowless van, Weatherly said he would take Dushku to his “rape van,” according to the report. Dushku told investigators that after she confronted Weatherly about the comments, she was told she would not be returning to the show.
In a statement to the New York Times, Weatherly said he had apologized to Dushku.
“During the course of taping our show, I made some jokes mocking some lines in the script,” Mr. Weatherly said in the statement. “When Eliza told me that she wasn’t comfortable with my language and attempt at humor, I was mortified to have offended her and immediately apologized. After reflecting on this further, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate and I am sorry and regret the pain this caused Eliza.”
Steven Spielberg’s TV production company Amblin Television, which is one of the producers of the show, was also a party to the settlement. Dushku reportedly complained about her treatment on “Bull” to an executive at Amblin, Leslee Feldman.
The company declined to comment.
“Bull” has become one of CBS’ top prime-time shows. It runs on Monday nights and stars Weatherly as the brash and bespectacled Dr. Jason Bull, a character inspired by Dr. Phil McGraw. Weatherly is a familiar face to CBS audiences through his long-running role as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo on the Navy crime drama “NCIS” for 13 seasons. He also starred in the sci-fi series “Dark Angel.”
According to the network, the Bull character relies on his “remarkable insight into human nature, three PhD’s, and a top-notch staff” to win legal cases for his clients.