CBS is defending its decision to renew the legal drama “Bull” starring Michael Weatherly, who was accused of sexual harassment last year, by noting that the actor is a father.
The highly rated procedural was renewed for a fourth season despite former co-star Eliza Dushku claiming Weatherly regularly harassed her on set by making “cruel” and “aggressive” comments about sex, rape and her appearance in front of cast and crew members.
The “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alum reached a $9.5 million settlement with the network in January 2018 after she was written out the show for what she believed was retaliation for speaking out about the actor’s alleged misconduct.
CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said on Wednesday at the network’s upfront presentation that he ultimately felt comfortable welcoming Weatherly back to the network after considering the “totality of his work.”
“He’s been with us for 14 years. There’s never been any complaint,” Kahl said of Weatherly, noting the actor’s tenure on “NCIS,” the long-running CBS series, according to Variety. “I believe he took everything seriously. He wants to move forward. He’s a dad, he’s a father. He’s upset by this, he wants to make it better.”
He also noted that in light of Dushku’s experience, CBS has implemented behind-the-scenes measures like a hotline to report abuse, compliance officers on set and “expanded anti-harassment training.”
“First and foremost, Michael made a mistake in his comments, he owned that mistake, he apologized at the time. He was remorseful and he apologized again when it came out,” “He indicated he was willing to take any kind of coaching, whatever training deemed necessary to create a positive environment.”
Weatherly denied having a hand in Dushku’s firing, but the actress painted a different picture in a blistering Boston Globe op-ed published in December. Dushku called for a “culture change” at the network, which has been plagued by allegations of sexual misconduct in recent years involving its former CEO Les Moonves.
While Weatherly expressed remorse for his comments, which he categorized as jokes, it’s unclear whether he faced any real consequences for his behavior.
“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,” Weatherly said in a statement after news of the settlement broke. “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.”
The production company behind the series, Amblin Entertainment, which was founded by Steven Spielberg, severed ties with the show after the allegations came to light.
Spielberg, who donated heavily to the Time’s Up organization, also reportedly sat down with Dushku to discuss solutions for the “systemic imbalance of power, the abuse and harassment” in the industry.