‘Cultural issues’

Eliza Dushku was silenced by CBS after suffering harassment on set, report finds

Eliza Dushku (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images for Lionsgate)

A draft of an investigative report into alleged sexual misconduct by former CBS chief Leslie Moonves and other “cultural issues at all levels of CBS” has revealed that the network paid Eliza Dushku $9.5 million after the actress was allegedly forced out of the TV show Bull for speaking out about harassment by the show’s star, Michael Weatherly.

Dushku, whose work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and subsequent spinoff Angel earned her both acclaim and an enduring fan base, signed on for a major role in three episodes of the CBS prime-time drama in March 2017 with “well developed plans” for her to become a regular cast member. According to the report from law firms Covington & Burling and Debevoise & Plimpton, which were retained by CBS to investigate allegations against Moonves, Weatherly repeatedly remarked on Dushku’s appearance in front of cast and crew — behavior that the actress alleged emboldened others on set to treat her similarly.

Weatherly, a 13-year veteran and star on the network’s most popular drama, NCIS, also allegedly made offensive jokes to Dushku — including one about him luring her into a rape van, and others involving him spanking her and implying that she wanted a threesome with him. After Dushku confronted Weatherly to ask him to stop, the report found, the actor sent a text to David Stapf, the president of CBS Television Studios, saying that he wanted to have a discussion about Dushku’s sense of humor. Days later, Dushku was abruptly written out of the show.

Dushku considered suing the network, but instead entered mediation. During that process, CBS chief compliance officer Mark Engram provided outtakes from the show in the apparent belief it would help the company’s case because they showed Dushku using curse words on set, but accidentally bolstered Dushku’s case because they “actually captured some of the harassment on film,” the report found. In exchange for a $9.5 million settlement — roughly what Dushku would have earned had she stayed on the show for four seasons as once planned — the actress agreed to sign a non-disclosure agreement barring her from speaking out about what transpired. The way CBS handled the situation, investigators said, was misguided, displayed an “antiquated” notion of how women are expected to behave on set, and was indicative of a problematic standard of practice that saw the company strive to protect itself ahead of those victimized by its employees’ misconduct.

Weatherly has denied allegations that he harassed Dushku or pushed for her removal from the show. Dushku, who spoke out earlier this year to allege that she was molested by one of Hollywood’s most famous stunt coordinators at age 12 on the set of the film True Lies, is still bound by her NDA and has not spoken about the recent case publicly. But when investigators representing CBS came to speak to Dushku, the report said, she told them, “You’re all I have at this point. My story is true and it’s really affected me, and I can’t talk about it.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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