When the CBS Corporation board of directors hired two law firms in August to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by former chief executive Leslie Moonves, they also asked them to examine broader “cultural issues at all levels” of the network.
Last week, the New York Times obtained a draft of the lawyers’ final report, which concluded that the corporation had justification to terminate Moonves with cause and, possibly, to deny him a lucrative severance. But that’s not all — according to a follow-up article published by the Times on Friday, the draft report also revealed that earlier this year, CBS agreed pay the actress Eliza Dushku $9.5 million to confidentially settle her claims of sexual harassment by actor Michael Weatherly on the set of the network series, Bull. The report concluded that CBS’s handling of Dushku’s complaints was, according to the Times, “misguided” and “emblematic of of larger problems” at the company, which had a “tendency to protect itself, at the expense of victims” when “faced with instances of wrongdoing.”
In March 2017, Dushku — recognizable for her roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, as well as her part as the daughter of Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1994’s True Lies — was hired for a major role on Bull, an hour-long primetime procedural series that began in 2016. Though she was initially slated to appear on three episodes, there were “well developed plans” to make her a full-time cast member, according to the Times, and she was assured her that the role would be “more than a love interest” for the show’s protagonist, Dr. Jason Bull, a flirtatious trial consultant loosely based on Dr. Phil McGraw. Weatherly was given the leading role in his own series after starring on the popular CBS show, NCIS, for 13 seasons, making him one of the network’s longest-running stars. After Dushku confronted Weatherly about a series of harassment incidents on set, she was suddenly written off the show in what she believed was “retaliation.”
Dushku was interviewed by CBS’s lawyers as part of their investigation, and their report details her allegations about Weatherly’s conduct.
According to Dushku, during filming, Weatherly repeatedly subjected her to comments of a sexual nature in front of other members of the cast and crew. “Here comes legs,” Weatherly remarked when Dushku walked on set wearing a suit, according to notes taken by the law firm’s investigators. On another occasion, Dushku claimed, Weatherly said he wanted to bend her over his knee and spank her. There was also an incident in which Dushku made a gesture with three fingers, and in response, Weatherly joked that she wanted to have a threesome with another male cast member.
Dushku told investigators that because of Weatherly’s prominence on the show, his comments in front of the cast and crew were met with laughter and even mimicry. Dushku said at one point, she was approached by a crew member who remarked “I’m with Bull,” implying he too was interested in a threesome. Dushku told investigators the incident made her feel “disgusting and violated.”
In yet another incident noted by investigators and discussed in the report, while filming a scene involving a white, windowless van, Weatherly commented that he would take Dushku to his “rape van” which he said contained phallic objects and lubricant.
Dushku approached one of the show’s producers about her increasing discomfort with Weatherly’s behavior, and they agreed she would bring the matter to Weatherly’s attention. Dushku began by telling Weatherly that “everyone loves” him and follows his lead, using the threesome incident as an example. Weatherly responded by asking Dushku why she didn’t report the crew member for his comment, and then later, according to investigators, he texted David Stapf, the president of CBS Television Studios, and said he wanted to talk about Dushku’s sense of humor.
Days later, Dushku — who had already expressed her fear of being fired — learned she would not be joining the cast of Bull full-time after all. During her final days of filming, Weatherly’s inappropriate behavior continued, Dushku told investigators. He insisted she participate in a champagne toast, even though he knew she did not drink alcohol, and he repeatedly remarked that she was a “beautiful woman” in front of the cast and crew.
In a statement emailed to the Times, CBS acknowledged the settlement and, more broadly, the merits of Dushku’s complaints.
“The allegations in Ms. Dushku’s claims are an example that, while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace, our work is far from done,” the statement said. “The settlement of these claims reflects the projected amount that Ms. Dushku would have received for the balance of her contract as a series regular, and was determined in a mutually agreed upon mediation process at the time.”
However, according to the draft report, during mediation, representatives for CBS attempted to bolster the company’s decision to not continue Dushku’s employment by producing outtakes from filming which showed the actress cursing. The strategy didn’t work to their favor, as the footage “actually captured some of the harassment on film.” CBS and Dushku finalized the terms of the settlement in January 2018.
Weatherly, who continues to star on Bull, emailed a statement to the Times apologizing for his conduct towards 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.”
Weatherly’s repeated emphasis of his own humorous intentions is consistent with his response to Dushku’s complaints in communications with the show’s producers and CBS investigators. For example, Weatherly told investigators that his remark about wanting to spank Dushku was an “ad-libbed joke” based on “a classic Cary Grant line from Charade or Philadelphia Story.”
His statement also minimizes the extent of Dushku’s complaints by implying that there was just one incident rather than several, and the Times story contains no corroboration for Weatherly’s claim that he “immediately apologized.”
In his interview with investigators, Weatherly denied that he had anything to do with Dushku being written off the series. And in a statement to the Times, Glenn Gordon Caron, a producer and writer on Bull, said the decision had nothing to with Dushku’s experiences on set.
“The idea that our not exercising her option to join the series was in any way punitive just couldn’t be further from the truth,” Caron said in the statement.
Rolling Stone’s request for further comment from CBS and Weatherly was declined.
The terms of the confidential settlement agreement prohibit Dushku from discussing her experiences on Bull, including the allegations against Weatherly, and she declined the Times’ request for comment. However, according to the draft report produced by the attorneys hired by CBS, Dushku was relieved to have an opportunity to tell someone her side of the story.
“You’re all I have at this point,” Dusku told them. “My story is true and it’s really affected me, and I can’t talk about it.”