One More Reason Not To Watch “Bull”

Harassed and harasser. Guess who stayed employed?

“Bull,” the CBS legal drama starring Michael Weatherly as a roguish, brilliant jury consultant who violates so many ethics rules on behalf of the submissive lawyer who employs him that it actively makes viewers dumber, reached my boycott list almost immediately. It’s a shame, because I could get a lively post, sometimes several, out of virtually any episode, since the show’s respect for ethics, professional and otherwise is non-existent.

Now there’s another good reason to avoid “Bull.” CBS has investigators checking the depth and length of the cultural norms of sexual assault, harassment and cover-ups at CBS, where CEO Les Moonves was recently fired after it was revealed that he was a serial sexual predator. That was odd, too, because the other networks enjoyed painting Fox News as a den of sexism after founder Roger Aisles was exposed as exactly the sort of pig who would make his female talent dye their hair blonde and dress like cocktail hostesses. They also had their news reporters sneering and preaching about evil Candidate Trump boasting about “grabbing them by the pussy” while their execs and stars were actually doing it. (My guess? Every one of the major networks has corrupt, harassment-supporting cultures like Fox and CBS. Every single one.) One of the revelations was that actress Eliza Dushku, the bad vampire slayer on “Buffy,” was harassed repeatedly by “Bull” star Michael Weatherly, and when she complained about it, was fired. To cover-up, Dushku was paid nine million dollars as damages and hush money. As you know, this must have been a campaign financing violation.

The story is disgusting. Read it and retch. to summarize, Weatherly, who apparently is very much like the charming jerks he plays, pet making sexual comments to Dushku, calling her “Legs” on the set, suggesting that she participate in “threesomes” and similar comments. Soon other men on the show were doing the same. Dushku, who had been signed up play a continuing role on the show, complained—as she should have—and Weatherly had her fired. Then CBS paid to cover it up.

Nice.

It is amazing to me that even in the ethics cesspool of show business, this behavior continues to happen, and big corporations continue to allow it, indeed facilitate it. Weatherly says he was misunderstood, that he was joking—like when he said in front of the cast and crew that he would bend her over his leg and spank her, or when he said he would take . Dushku to his “rape van,” which he said was filled with phallic objects and lubricant—that this is just the way he is, that he didn’t mean anything by it and is sorry that he upset anybody.

Bull.

This is classic sexual harassment, and would have been rude, unprofessional and abusive conduct before the term “sexual harassment” was invented.

I have had many female peers and subordinates in my embarrassingly diverse career, including many who were single, attractive, and who caused my heart to skip a beat every time I saw them. I never once made a sexually suggestive comment to any of them; it would not have occurred to me to do so. The reason is that I was raised properly to be respectful to women, and because I instinctively understood that the workplace, even the confusing workplace of show business, was not a locus where basic manners and common sense were suspended. This shouldn’t be hard. That particular ethics alarm should be installed and fully functional by the time a child is 10.

Weatherly, of course, as the star of a successful, popular and lucrative show, assumed that he was immune from discipline, and he was, sadly, right. What should have happened was that the producers should have called him in to grim scene with lawyers present. He should have been told that his conduct was not only stupid and vulgar but illegal. He should have been required to apologize to the actress and to make an appropriate statement to the cast and crew. Finally, he should have been told that a single instance of this kind of conduct, or any hint or retaliation against Dushku, would result in his dismissal for cause.

Disney and ABC, you will recall, fired Roseanne Barr from her own show for a single tweet. Even a CBS show had acted decisively when “Criminal Minds” fired star Thomas Gibson for kicking a writer. Ah, but one instance was racism, and the other was violence. The tragedy is that too many organizations and powerful men, especially in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., still don’t see sexual harassment as all that big a deal. No, it certainly doesn’t help the the President of the United States also doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but you can’t blame CBS’s conduct on him.

There is no excuse for this. There was never any excuse for this.

14 thoughts on “One More Reason Not To Watch “Bull”

  1. I like Bull, if only to snicker to my wife when something completely unrealistic happens. I have let go of being indignant because she knows.

    And, last month, in voir dire, I made a point of remarking to the jurors that they will never look st Bull the same way after that Going through voir dire. They laughed.

    In that experience, Bull serves as an teachable moment (as does CSI, for prosecutors, who face juries expecting definitive forensic evidence in every case).

    I got a hung jury in a he said/she said case.

    I call that a win (for now). re-trial in January.

    -Jut

  2. I enjoy Bull, as it produces family conversation around ethics. My kids are actually beginning to identify ethical behavior (instead of swimming in it like fish in water) and rationalizations.

  3. No, it certainly doesn’t help the the President of the United States also doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but you can’t blame CBS’s conduct on him.

    Neither Weatherly nor his superiors claimed that President Clinton made them do it.

    I understand that Clinton and his defenders twenty years ago set back decades, the cause of creating a cultural consensus against sexual harassment, but no sexual harrasser can plausibly argue that Clinton and his defenders made them do it.

    • “Neither Weatherly nor his superiors claimed that President Clinton made them do it.”

      Which I think most any odds maker worth his vig would consider a major upset.

  4. I guess since the original NCIS shut down, Mark Harmon isn’t around to slap Weatherly or his character up the backside of his head.

  5. What should have happened was that the producers should have called him in to grim scene with lawyers present [emphasis added]. He should have been told that his conduct was not only stupid and vulgar but illegal [emphasis added]. He should have been required [emphasis added] to apologize to the actress and to make an appropriate statement to the cast and crew. Finally, he should have been told that a single instance of this kind of conduct, or any hint or retaliation against Dushku, would result in his dismissal for cause [emphasis added].

    While I agree with the broad thrust of that, I would have handled the parts I italicised differently (in a scenario in which I could, and in which I myself would not be prevented by legal constraints etc. – I’m aware of those, and I’m just going for illustration of what I consider “right”).

    No lawyers present, because my aim would not be to constrain the man but either to inform him (so curing misguidedness) or to draw him out and, as it were, diagnose him.

    Ditto for telling him about “illegal”. At most it might be worth making a non-threatening suggestion that he himself might want to seek legal advice of his own, vis a vis the complainant – and back off from that as soon as he takes it as a threat, which also says something about him.

    Ditto for “required”; he should only be asked for that.

    And finally, after all that low key stuff worked out as giving him enough rope to hang himself, and after seeing if he freely – without constraint – showed signs of repentance or not, remove him utterly anyway if he did not, there and then, without ever threatening it. (That part might be illegal, but if so the law warrants the view of the beadle in Oliver Twist.) Oh, and maintain discreet monitoring if he stayed, again going to removal without further ado as needed.

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