May 19th, 2019

CBS defends ‘Bull’ renewal after star faced misconduct claim

By Lynn Elber, The Associated Press on May 15, 2019.

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2016 file photo, Michael Weatherly attends a special screening of "Doctor Strange" at AMC Empire 25 in New York. CBS is defending its handling of a sexual harassment by Weatherly, star of the drama series "Bull." CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl said Wednesday that Weatherly "owned" his mistake and was apologetic and remorseful. Last year, CBS reached a $9.5 million confidential settlement with actress Eliza Dushku after she alleged on-set sexual comments from Weatherly made her uncomfortable. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK – 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.

Dushku 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.

In renewing Weatherly’s series, 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.

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

It’s an issue that has battered the company at the highest levels. Former CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, one of TV’s most influential figures, was ousted in September after allegations from women who said he subjected them to mistreatment including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted.

Moonves is fighting the company’s decision to deny his $120 million severance package.

In its December 2018 story last year reporting the Dushku matter and settlement, the Times said details including the settlement became known when the CBS Corp. board hired outside lawyers to examine misconduct claims against Moonves and to look into CBS as a whole.

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