At this point in our national nightmare, a Breaking News Alert from basically any news organization means either one of two things: Our president has done some dumb, potentially sexist shit, or (most likely) another man has been revealed as doing some dumb, definitively sexist shit. There is overlap here, of course, but we’re not talking about Trump right now, we’re talking about the flaming garbage fire that is CBS.
Perhaps you recall that in September it was announced that Les Moonves, chairman and CEO of the CBS Corporation, was being forced out after The New Yorker reported on allegations of sexual assault and harassment perpetrated by Moonves from a number of women, including actress Illeana Douglas. Moonves was originally rumored to receive a $100 million exit package but the CBS Board of Directors ultimately voted against that because Moonves lied to them. Not necessarily because he hurt a bunch of women, but because he wasn’t entirely forthcoming with the other rich people in the room. Whah!
But that toxic culture at CBS wasn’t contained to Moonves. We know that because Charlie Rose was with CBS when more than 30 women accused him of sexual misconduct; CBS News just settled with three of those women yesterday. And now we know that the situation is shady on the boring-TV-dramas-your-parents-watch side of CBS, too: Actress Eliza Dushku was paid $9.5 million by CBS this past January to quietly go away after accusing Bull star Michael Weatherly of sexual harassment, and having video to prove it. It was a secret deal, and although Dushku isn’t talking, details of the arrangement have come out as the investigation against Moonves and involving CBS continues. From the New York Times:
In a draft of the investigation report, which was reviewed by The New York Times, the lawyers said the company’s handling of Ms. Dushku’s complaints was not only misguided, but emblematic of larger problems at CBS. When faced with instances of wrongdoing, the company had a tendency to protect itself, at the expense of victims, the investigators wrote.
The details of the report, which documents interviews between Dushku, Weatherly, other CBS employees, and investigators, are enraging, disgusting, and unfortunately familiar. The gist, according to the New York Times and other outlets reporting the story as of last night, is this: Dushku (Faith from Buffy, the star of Dollhouse) joined the cast of Bull in March 2017 for a three-episode arc, with the potential for the role to grow into a seasons-long commitment. But almost immediately, it seems, Weatherly turned out to be a massive piece of shit, making comments about Dushku’s appearance, throwing out a rape joke, and saying he would like to have a threesome with her. All in front of cast and crew! Not at all an intimidating, abusive example of power manifested as sexual harassment!
But it wasn’t long before Mr. Weatherly started making comments that left her feeling uncomfortable. “Here comes legs,” he said on a day when Ms. Dushku was wearing a suit, according to the interview notes. On another occasion, Ms. Dushku told investigators, he said in front of the cast and crew that he would bend her over his leg and spank her.
In an interview, Mr. Weatherly said the remark about spanking was meant as a joke. “I ad-libbed a joke, a classic Cary Grant line from ‘Charade’ or ‘Philadelphia Story,’ and that meant not at all that that was an action I wanted to take,” he said.
Ms. Dushku also described to investigators a time on the set when, in character, she made a gesture with three fingers. In response, she said, Mr. Weatherly suggested — to laughs from the crew — that she wanted to have a threesome with him and another male cast member.
Then came the shooting of a scene involving a windowless van. With the cameras rolling, in front of the cast and crew, Mr. Weatherly said he would take Ms. Dushku to his “rape van,” which, he added, was filled with phallic objects and lubricant, according to the interview notes.
Mr. Weatherly said the “rape van” line was an attempted joke that misfired. “The scripted line in that scene was, ‘Hey, young lady, step into my windowless van,’” he said. “I didn’t particularly like that line, so I joked, in order to highlight how distasteful the emphasis of the line was, about an ‘r. van,’ a rape van. Which, in retrospect, was not a good idea.”
Uh, yeah! Very much NOT A GOOD IDEA! And here is where this gets even more infuriating: Dushku tried to do what parents, teachers, mentors, authority figures all over the place tell us to do when someone bothers you—confront them. Tell them how you feel. Try to reach a collaborative consensus on your own, without engaging higher-ups.
So Dushku talked to Weatherly, like a good colleague would do. And what did Weatherly do? Well, you can guess what Weatherly did.
After the talk, Mr. Weatherly sent a text to David Stapf, the president of CBS Television Studios, saying that he wanted to talk about Ms. Dushku’s sense of humor. Mr. Stapf replied that Ms. Dushku made the show better, according to the interview notes.
Around the same time, Ms. Dushku expressed the worry to her representatives that Mr. Weatherly might go to CBS and get her fired.
That is effectively what happened. Within days of confronting Mr. Weatherly, Ms. Dushku was written off the show. The plan to make her part of the cast was over. By way of explanation, [Bull producer and writer Glenn Gordon Caron] told her that he “didn’t know how to write” her into the show anymore, according to the interview notes.
Oh, cool! So Caron—who encouraged Dushku to speak to Weatherly—then took Weatherly’s side. But good for Dushku, because she didn’t stop there: She entered into mediation with CBS, and during the course of that process, CBS tried to use her cursing on the set as evidence against her. Like, because vulgarity is clearly the same thing as being a liar, right? Only that decision ended up digging them deeper into the shit, because LOL:
After considering a lawsuit, Ms. Dushku entered into mediation with CBS. Mark Engstrom, the chief compliance officer at CBS, participated, along with Bettina B. Plevan, a partner at the law firm Proskauer Rose, who was serving as outside counsel for the company.
Mr. Engstrom handed over outtakes from “Bull” in the belief that they would help the company’s cause, because they showed Ms. Dushku cursing on the set, investigators wrote in the draft of their report.
The strategy backfired. The outtakes were a “gold mine” for Ms. Dushku, the lawyers wrote, because they “actually captured some of the harassment on film.”
Although the investigators praised Mr. Engstrom for his “tremendous institutional knowledge” and described him as a “smart and very capable lawyer,” they said the company’s failure to recognize the instances of harassment caught on tape was a symptom of larger problems at CBS, according to the draft of their report. Mr. Engstrom declined to comment.
So, first thing: Of course the company “compliance officer” tried to smear the victim using any scrap of “inappropriate” behavior as the basis for their shady shit. What a shocker! What an example of puritanical, patriarchal, prevalent thinking! And the result of all this, as we now know, was that Dushku received $9.5 million in January in a settlement that barred her from talking about it; in September, she would meet with lawyers investigating the internal workings of CBS when everything with Moonves began to unravel. And what else did Dushku do in January? She came forward during the #MeToo movement and named Hollywood stunt coordinator Joel Kramer as her childhood abuser.
Kramer would deny the allegations, unsurprisingly, much like Weatherly denied ill intent with his jokes. It doesn’t matter that Dushku did everything “right”: that she confronted her harasser, that she went up the chain of command in the workplace, that she found a male ally, that she tried to handle things as amicably as possible. She didn’t sue, she didn’t leak the story, she didn’t do all those things nasty women do. She was, by all accounts from the report, polite and accommodating and yet also aware of her rights and her personhood, and that got her fired. How quickly the men in power worked to keep her out of power. It’s almost like they’re used to it by now.
Genuinely how much shit is one woman supposed to take in a lifetime?— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) December 14, 2018
And finally, let’s see what Weatherly has to say. This should be good! In that it’s not good at all! Look at this weak shit:
In an emailed statement to The Times, Mr. Weatherly apologized for his behavior with Ms. 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.”
Why is it so hard for people who are crappy to just not be crappy for like, 30 seconds? Why not lead your apology with an “I’m sorry”? Why make it seem like your onetime costar and colleague is this frigid bitch who can’t laugh at a joke about getting raped? Why keep going back to whether your comments were “funny”? Why not center this statement around the fact that you weren’t appropriate more than once and set a bad example that others copied? Why put the blame on the script? Why not take some responsibility for your own dumb shit?
Weatherly is a company man; he’s been with CBS for more than 15 years (on NCIS for 13!), and a whole bunch of grandpas must be watching Bull because the show is now in its third season. It’s based on the life of Dr. Phil (dafuq?), and is the 10th-most watched show on network television (dafuq???), and I wonder if its days are numbered or if we’re going to have to keep seeing Weatherly’s smug face in the countless ads and promos that run for this program.
“Why is Roxana watching CBS at all?” you may wonder, and look, I’ve watched The Young and the Restless since I was in elementary school. Can’t stop, won’t stop, please stop showing me Weatherly’s infuriating mug, thanks.
Take it away, Eliza.
I hope they had to shoot this scene a dozen times. And I wish there was a third angle of the final cut … or like, infinitely more angles. I really, really do.