According to a bombshell new report from the New York Times, CBS paid actress Eliza Dushku a secret $9.5 million dollar settlement earlier this year following her complaints about sexual harassment on the set of Bull, one of the network’s prime-time shows. Shockingly, after Dushku came forward with her claims, a top CBS lawyer reportedly attempted to discredit her by using footage of her cursing during on-set — apparently not realizing that the footage also clearly documented instances of sexual harassment.
Dushku had signed a three-episode contract with “well-developed” plans to keep her on the show permanently the Times says. But after making a complaint about series star Michael Weatherly’s repeated inappropriate behavior, the prospect of her staying on the show was nixed, and she was written off. Dushku’s settlement is the latest story in a series of sexual abuse scandals from the network.
On set, Weatherly reportedly made multiple inappropriate comments to Dushku, including a rape joke, a comment about a threesome with another actor on the show, and repeated remarks about her appearance, including “here comes legs,” when Dushku wore a pantsuit. After the rape joke, which Weatherly made while they were filming, Dushku confronted him about his behavior. Within days, she was informed she would be written off the show.
After mulling the possibility of filing lawsuit, Dushku entered into mediation with CBS, and an internal investigation was conducted. During this investigation, the Times reports, the network’s chief compliance officer Mark Engstrom handed over outtakes from the Bull set in the belief that they would help the network’s cause, because they showed Ms. Dushku cursing.” But instead, the tapes “were a goldmine,” as they “captured some of the harassment on film.” Engstrom seemingly did not realize the instances constituted harassment.
By January 2018, a settlement was reached: CBS was to pay Dushku $9.5 million, and Dushku could not speak about her experiences.
In a statement to the Times, Weatherly apologized for his comments. “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.”
His statement did not address the allegation that he had been involved in her termination, but in earlier interviews with investigators, he claimed innocence. “It’s my recollection that I didn’t tell anyone how they should do their job regarding the hiring or firing of anybody.”
In the investigators’ assessment of Dushku’s allegations, they concluded that the handling of her sexual harassment complaint was part of a larger problem at the network — made especially clear by Engstrom’s inability to discern what sexual harassment looked like. Since CBS’s settlement with Dushku, their CEO Les Moonves was forced to step down amid multiple sexual misconduct allegations. Charlie Rose and Jeff Fager, two other men in high positions, also left the company following similar allegations.
Dushku has not commented on the report.