CBS has had no shortage of sexual assault and harassment scandals. At the top of their network, CBS fired Les Moonves after a series of sexual misconduct and assault allegations last year. NCIS: New Orleans producer Brad Kern was investigated twice. Last year, Eliza Dushku was dismissed from Bull with a $9.5 million settlement when she brought sexual harassment allegations against star Michael Weatherly.

CBS executives Kelly Kahl and Thom Sherman spoke with the Television Critics Association today. Find out how they responded to questions about Bull specifically. Bull returns for a fourth season September 23.

Weatherly and Showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron Are Going Through Training

Dushku alleged that Weatherly made jokes about wanting to have a threesome with her and other costars, along with other sexual remarks. As part of her settlement, she also signed an NDA. Kahl said that Weatherly and others are going through training subsequent to the incident.

“[Weatherly] is undergoing leadership coaching,” Kahl said. “He is taking his responsibility as the head of the show to make the set a positive way to work. He was there last week and the entire cast and crew had just undergone some training at the start. Glenn is also undergoing leadership training. It has started and will continue. I don’t know if it was mandated. We all agreed to it.”

Leadership training, but not sexual harassment training specifically?

“I think it’s kind of implied in the name,” Kahl said. “It’s how to be a leader on the set. It’s how to set a positive example for everybody. Michael takes that very seriously. I think Glenn does as well. These are the two people front and center on the show. They want to be as strong and as good and as fair leaders as they can be. This training helps them do that. We’ve had some courses at CBS recently that have helped us learn about cross generational leadership. we’ve done unconscious bias training. None of us are too old or too smart to learn how to do things better.”

Not that we expected anything more, but CBS must know this looks like a slap on the wrist. They won’t even use the phrase “sexual harassment” in addressing it. /Film asked if sexual harassment was a component of leadership training and Kahl referred to it as “anti-harassment” training.

Like It or Not, America Still Loves Bull

CBS may be willing to cut their losses and move on with Bull, but production company Amblin Entertainment was not. They pulled out of Bull in May. Not everybody felt as strongly as Amblin.

“I can’t speak for Amblin but to us, it’s a show that does very well,” Kahl said. “It’s a very popular show. More than 10 million people watch every week. Michael is loved by our audience. Even after these allegations came out, people continued to watch so it’s a popular show that we want to keep on our air. And it’s a very good show as well.”

Therein lies much of the problem. Many of the men accused of harassment or worse have been beloved by a segment of the audience. Protecting them sends a message that if you’re popular enough, or really if you make the network enough money, they can throw cash at your problems. 

“We talked a lot about this in May, discussed it with the press,” Kahl said. “We found out about the settlement the same time you did. We took a 360 view of the entire situation when we found out about that. We wanted to look at it with fresh eyes. What we found was in Michael’s case, no incidents, no complaints in his time at Bull, none on either side of the isolated incident on Bull. He was at the time remorseful and apologetic when the settlement came out and was made public, he was remorseful again and apologized.”

Given that they are moving forward with a fourth season, I expect CBS to stand by its stars and creators. They were still evasive as more and more Moonves allegations emerged. The message they are sending is that they’re not really going to talk about this in a meaningful way, even if a reporter specifically asks them about Dushku’s claim that she was fired within 48 hours of reporting the incident and that Caron said, “What does she expect? She was in Maxim.”

“I think all of our shows, everybody top to bottom is receiving training now,” Kahl responded. “I think we’ve had some other situations with bad behavior from showrunners. In any situation where we receive information or hear something is askew on a show, we investigate immediately. That’s what happened on Bull. There was a settlement that was reached. I can’t add a lot more to it other than the expectation of our showrunners is very clear. They will run a welcoming set for everyone on it from top to bottom.” 

Diversity is Also Important to CBS

CBS has faced many TCA sessions where it’s been pointed out how white their shows are. Last year, shows like The Neighborhood and God Friended Me featured more African-American cast members. 

“Last year our new slate of show was a good first step and I think with our slate this year we’ve taken a couple more steps forward,” Kahl said. “We still have a lot of work to do but we’re confident we’re on the right path. Our commitment continues.”

This fall they have new series starring Mike Colter, Aasif Mandvi, Lucy Liu,  Simone Missick, Folake Olowofoyeku and more diverse creators too.

“We are clearly looking different on air,” Sherman added. “Our commitment to inclusion and diversity behind the scenes is important. This season 53% of our writers are women or People of Color. 50% of our directors will be women or people of color. We know that work must continue and it will continue as we look to evolve culturally, creatively and commercially. As we move forward, we’re going to continue to widen the lens of the shows we do at CBS.”

Those are good numbers. Let’s hope the shows are good too.

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