Weatherly was accused by fellow “Bull” actor Eliza Dushku of sexual harassment during her brief time on the series in its second season. CBS ultimately paid Dushku a settlement of $9.5 million, after she was let go for what Dushku said was retaliation after she complained about Weatherly’s behavior.
CBS considered Weatherly’s long run at the network — he was previously a star of drama “NCIS” — and the lack of previous sexual harassment complaints in considering the fate of “Bull” as network brass set the 2019-20 primetime lineup. “Bull” production company Amblin Entertainment has severed its ties to the show in the wake of the Weatherly scandal. Amblin founder Steven Spielberg has been active in the Time’s Up movement to combat harassment in the workplace.
Kelly Kahl, CBS Entertainment president, said Weatherly’s apology and remorse were a factor in the final analysis. Kahl also stressed that few at CBS were aware of Dushku’s accusations and settlement until it became public in December when Dushku wrote a scathing op-ed about the incidents for the Boston Globe.
“Michael made a mistake in his comments (to Dushku). He owned that mistake. He was apologetic at the time, and he was remorseful,” Kahl said. “He was willing to take any kind of coaching or training we deem necessary for him to create a positive environment on the set,” something that has taken place, Kahl said.
“When we looked at the totality of the situation, we felt comfortable bringing ‘Bull’ back on the air,” Kahl said.
Kahl stressed that he was confident that Weatherly “took everything very seriously and wants to move forward. He’s a dad, he’s a father. He was upset by this. He wants to make it better.”
Kahl and Thom Sherman, CBS senior exec VP of programming, outlined procedures that CBS has implemented to guard against harassment and other problems behind the scenes of its series. The network has been under scrutiny for a string of complaints about working conditions on CBS shows and has faced criticism for what some see as a lack of diversity in its executive ranks. Last fall, CBS was rocked to the core when longtime chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves was ousted last September amid revelations of sexual misconduct allegations going back decades.
Kahl noted that all CBS’ talent and executives are undergoing expanded anti-harassment training. Human resources executives are visiting the set of all CBS shows on a regular basis and there are more avenues for reporting abuses anonymously.
Kahl said bluntly that the complaints such as Dushku’s that have come to light in recent months are being handled in a much different way these days. “I can’t be told anything, Thom can’t be told anything and not go straight to HR,” Kahl said. “There’s no room to sweep anything under the rug.”
Moonves was famously hands-on at this time of year in selecting pilots and helping to set the primetime schedule. “I can’t pretend it wasn’t different,” Kahl said when pressed about changes in the process this year. “Leslie was a strong leader and definitely had an influence over what we did. But in terms of the creation of these shows and the execution of the pilots — that came from this team.”