Last week, the New York Times reported that actress Eliza Dushku had reached a $9.5 million settlement with CBS over workplace sexual harassment.
On Wednesday, in an essay published by the Boston Globe, Dushku broke her silence on the settlement, writing that she was written off the show “Bull” after she confronted actor Michael Weatherly about sexually charged comments he made on set.
“The narrative propagated by CBS, actor Michael Weatherly, and writer-producer Glenn Gordon Caron is deceptive and in no way fits with how they treated me on the set of the television show ‘Bull’ and retaliated against me for simply asking to do my job without relentless sexual harassment,” she wrote. “This is not a ‘he-said/she-said’ case. Weatherly’s behavior was captured on CBS’s own videotape recordings.”
She added that “the bullying continued” after she was no longer employed by the network. “In the settlement process, CBS used as defense a photo of me in a bathing suit, pulled from my own Instagram, as if this suggested I deserved or was not offended by the sexual harassment I experienced,” she wrote. (CBS did not immediately return The Washington Post’s inquiry about Dushku’s essay.)
Weatherly told the Times he “made some jokes mocking some lines in the script. 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,” he continued, “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.”
Before she joined “Bull” in 2017, Dushku had roles on television shows including “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Tru Calling” and “Dollhouse.” She’s also appeared in several films, such as “True Lies,” “Bring It On,” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.”
According to Dushku and the Times report, she was hired to appear in the three episodes of the first season of “Bull,” with plans for her to continue in a major role in future seasons.
But Dushku wrote that she endured repeated harassment that was captured on tape, including comments made by Weatherly about taking her to his “rape van,” him calling her names, playing “provocative songs (like ‘Barracuda’) on his iPhone when I approached my set marks” and remarks he made in a room full of people “about having a threesome.”
According to Dushku, she asked Weatherly to “help ease the sexualized set comments,” and shortly after, he complained to the CBS Television president that Dushku had a “humor deficit.” Within days, she wrote, producer-writer Caron fired her.
Weatherly told the Times he wasn’t involved in the decision to write Dushku off the show, and Caron denied retaliation was behind the move.
“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 told the Times.
It’s not unusual for settlements regarding sexual harassment complaints to include nondisclosure agreements or requirements that the parties involved stay silent about the claims. But the #MeToo movement and increased attention on sexual misconduct in Hollywood has prompted some to speak publicly anyway.
For Dushku’s part, she wrote, “I really struggled with this and still do.” She agreed to the terms — which included designating a sexual harassment compliance monitor at CBS — as she faced the prospect of a lengthy and costly legal battle.
“In the end, I found uneasy solace in the important conditions I imposed on CBS, and that I would get paid for at least some of my contract,” she wrote.
Dushku’s comments come as CBS is publicly dealing with several sexual misconduct scandals. Details of her settlement came out during the independent investigation the network launched this summer into allegations against former chief Les Moonves. (CBS’s board of directors announced Monday that Moonves was terminated for cause and that he would not receive $120 million in severance.)
“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,” CBS said in a statement to the Times last week. “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.”