CBS boss defends decision to renew ‘Bull’ despite Michael Weatherly sexual harassment allegations

CBS defended its decision to renew the drama series Bull after settling a sexual harassment claim against its star Michael Weatherly, saying the actor “owned” and apologized for his on-set behaviour toward actress Eliza Dushku.

Last December, Dushku penned an emotional, straightforward op-ed for the Boston Globe, outlining details of the alleged sexual harassment she suffered on set of TV drama Bull.

She said she was written off the show after complaining that Weatherly remarked on her appearance and made jokes involving sex and rape in front of cast and crew in early 2017.

Last year, the allegation and a $9.5-million confidential settlement reached with Dushku were made public in a report by The New York Times.

“We found out about it when you did,” and looked at the matter with “fresh eyes” before making a decision on the show’s future, CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told a news conference held Wednesday to introduce CBS’ 2019-20 schedule, which includes Bull.

“First and foremost, what we found was Michael made a mistake in his comments. He owned that mistake. He was apologetic at the time” and apologized again when it came out, Kahl said.

When thinking about renewing Weatherly’s show, CBS considered the actor’s long tenure at the network, including more than a decade on NCIS, Kahl said. There were no complaints about Weatherly before or after Dushku’s, he said.

“So, when we look at the totality of the situation, we felt comfortable bringing Bull back on the air,” he said. Asked about the decision by Amblin Entertainment to withdraw from its work on the series following its renewal, Kahl said he couldn’t answer for them.

Steven Spielberg and his production company Amblin Television recently pulled out of the show Bull.

His company pulled out of the show months ago after the news of the allegations began to spread.

Amblin Television co-heads Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey and Spielberg all served as executive producers on Bull for the first three seasons.

The network has taken a number of measures to improve its handling of workplace misconduct, including enhanced training and an anonymous hotline, Kahl said.

Weatherly claimed that several of his remarks were based on lines in the Bull script, and he was just making off-the-cuff “jokes.”

He also issued an apology to the Times: “During the course of taping our show, I made some jokes mocking some lines in the script. When Eliza told me that she wasn’t comfortable with my language and attempt at humour, 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.”

Dushku insists that the millions of dollars she received was not “hush money,” but instead what she was owed for being jettisoned so easily and for the year of alleged abuse she suffered — not to mention the future income she lost by being removed from the show.

None of the sexual harassment accusations against Weatherly has been proven in court, and the actor has not been charged with any crime.

(You can read the full op-ed over at the Boston Globe.)

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. They are also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.

— With files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Chris Jancelewicz

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