Two new reports about alleged misconduct at CBS illustrate the extent of the network’s problems, not all of which can be solved with the ouster of chairman and CEO Les Moonves. Actresses Cybill Shepherd and Eliza Dushku are at the center of two separate stories this week about sexual harassment cutting their careers at CBS short. Shepherd said during an interview with The Michelle Collins Show that her sitcom in the late ‘90s ran into trouble after she rebuffed Moonves’ advances during a dinner date.
“He was, well, he was telling me his wife didn’t turn him on, some mistress didn’t turn him on,” she said, via Deadline. “And I’m watching him drink alcohol, and I’m going, he says, well, you know, ‘Why don’t you let me take you home?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve got a ride,’ and I had my car outside with a good friend of mine who is an off-duty LAPD officer.” It was then that Shepherd says she started receiving more restrictive notes about what she could and could not do on her show. She speculated that if that evening had gone differently, then Cybill, which ended in 1998, “would have run another five years.”
The New York Times came out with a story Thursday that, despite taking place two decades later, strikes a similar chord. In 2017, Eliza Dushku reportedly signed on for three episodes of CBS’ Bull, which had plans to make her a long-term member of the cast—until she complained about comments made by star Michael Weatherly and a member of the crew, including a rape joke and the suggestion of a threesome. Weatherly defended his remarks as mocking the show’s script and ad-libbing in a scene. “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,” he said. “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.”
But shortly after Dushku complained to Weatherly and showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron, she was written off Bull entirely, though Weatherly and Caron told the Times that it was not in retaliation for speaking up. During mediation, CBS’ chief compliance officer reportedly submitted footage of Bull outtakes because they showed Dushku “cursing,” on the assumption that it would somehow bolster the network’s case. Instead, that footage ultimately helped prove that the harassment took place, and Dushku left the show with a $9.5 million settlement, “roughly the equivalent of what [she] would have earned if she had stayed on as a cast member for four seasons.”
Details of the Dushku settlement and the behavior that led to it emerged because of an investigation launched in August into the accusations against Moonves. But if Shepherd and Dushku’s stories tell us anything, it’s that the problems at CBS go beyond any one individual or era: Both women found their careers at the network cut short in different eras as the result of alleged sexual harassment.