TV Controversies In 2018: #SexualHarassment, #Racism, #Bombs, #Guns, #BabySnatching

TV Controversies In 2018: #SexualHarassment, #Racism, #Bombs, #Guns, #BabySnatching

In 2018, a TV actor gender pay parity still was being debated, a TV journalist thought blackface could be defended on grounds of “Halloween,” and a TV ad campaign featuring a man known for kneeling to protest deaths of unarmed U.S. citizens triggered a national outbreak of gym sock logo cutting. Also, a network fired its hit sitcom star for behaving like the president, and the CEO of CBS learned what “consensual” most certainly does not mean.

Here are the sordid details:


The first Fortune 500 CEO toppled by allegations of sexual misconduct in the #MeToo era, Moonves’ CBS career ended abruptly after a dozen women accused him of various unwanted acts, including forced oral sex. After his ouster in September, the company board announced in December that Moonves will get none of the $120M severance he had expected, citing the findings of its investigation into Moonves, CBS News and “cultural issues at CBS.”

Those “cultural issues” included allegations of harassment at newsmag 60 MInutes, including unwanted advances by veteran EP Jeff Fager. But when Fager got the hook in September, it was not for those allegations, but for sending a threatening text to a female journalist on staff as she covered the story, warning Jericka Duncan to, “Be careful. There are people who lost their jobs trying to harm me,” as CBS Evening News reported the next night:

Those “cultural issues” also included a $9.5M payment made to Eliza Dushku to resolve claims that CBS retaliated against her for complaining about sexual harassment on the set of Bull. Dushku alleged Michael Weatherly remarked about her appearance, made a rape joke and commented about a threesome, NYT reported. Moonves was deeply and directly involved in the payout, Deadline reported.

Moonves’ ouster, in turn, led wife Julie Chen to exit The Talk. Chen’s Talk co-hosts discussed her absence on the September 10 premiere when Moonves’ ouster was topic du jour, with Sharon Osbourne noting, “It’s very embarrassing and upsetting to have to talk about [Julie’s] husband, but … we feel it’s right. Obviously the man has a problem.”

Chen never returned, except briefly by pre-taped message about a week after the season launch, to announce she was stepping down from the program:


Roseanne Redux, in which the lead character had evolved into a fervent member of Donald Trump’s base, as had star Roseanne Barr in real life, was a ratings hit, clocking more than 18M viewers Live+Same Day (and 22M in L+3). “Look at Roseanne! Over 18 million people! And it was about us!” President Donald Trump chest-thumped next day, to make sure headlines about the show’s triumphant return made mention of him.

At its May upfront/Rosanne Victory Lap, ABC/Disney chief Ben Sherwood preened, “You are welcome” to any advertisers in the hall who were playing an If Anyone Mentions Roseanne Drinking Game.

But, in addition to sharing Trump’s politics, Barr shared his penchant for making racist remarks. When, just a few weeks after the upfront presentation, Barr posted a tweet that described former President Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett as the offspring of “Muslim Brotherhood & Planet of the Apes,” ABC canceled the country’s top-rated new comedy. The network later brokered a deal to bring back the reboot, minus any Barr involvement, renaming it The Connors.


After an invited White House crowd pretended in October not to understand why bombs were being mailed to CNN and prominent Democrats, giving Trump a standing ovation because he had just said, “We have to unify” and “Acts or threats of political violence have no place in the United States of America,” CNN chief Jeff Zucker issued a statement blasting POTUS’ hypocrisy.

“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” said Zucker, whose company received multiple package bombs in New York and Atlanta. “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”

Two days later, authorities arrested Floridian Cesar Sayoc Jr. And, as news operations brought viewers up to date, law enforcement officials with the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service were seen on screen surrounding and covering Sayoc’s van with a blue tarp, in order to cover windows plastered with photos of Trump and Veep Mike Pence, the Presidential Seal, and a bumper sticker that read “CNN Sucks.”


In early December, with no host yet named and the 2019 Academy Awards little more than two months away on ABC, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva reported Kevin Hart was host-elect. Couple hours later, Hart confirmed via Instagram that he was hosting, calling it the “opportunity of a lifetime.”

But two days later, he was out, after Hart’s decade-old homophobic social media posts were dug up and went viral. Hart at first, appearing shirtless and defiant via Instagram, insisted he had dealt with those past statements and would not apologize now, saying, “We feed Internet trolls and we reward them. … I’m not going to do it man. I’m going to be me. If it goes away, no harm, no foul.”

“Goes away” it did, two days after Hart confirmed the offer. This time, announcing he was withdrawing from the hosting gig, he added, “I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past.”


NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch claimed she feared for her life when she participated in CNN’s February town hall on gun violence, which was attended by grieving students and parents from Parkland, FL, where 17 students and adults had been killed in the country’s latest school mass shooting. Loesch’s fear stemmed from the number of people in the audience who expressed their support for gun control measures. Next day, at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Loesch announced “many in legacy media love mass shootings” because “crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

But, when NRA tweeted a GIF of Parks and Recreation character Leslie Knope to thank Loesch for her bravery…

…the NBC comedy’s cast and crew took aim and fired.

“I would prefer you not use a GIF from a show I worked on to promote your pro-slaughter agenda,” co-creator Michael Schur tweeted, also relaying message to NRA from star Amy Poehler: “f*ck off.” Cast member Nick Offerman chimed in too, writing “Leslie Knope represents the opposite of your pro-slaughter agenda. Take it down and please eat s—”:


Hank Azaria announce he would be “willing and happy” to step aside as voice of Apu on The Simpsons or help transition the character into “something new,” calling it “the right thing to do.” He even threw out the idea of killing off Apu Nahasapeemapetilon while guesting on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show.

Comedian Hari Kondabolu’s truTV documentary The Problem with Apu triggered a lot of talk when it debuted in 2017. The Simpsons added lighter fluid to the fire when it “addressed” the controversy in this past April; in an episode in which Marge reads a book to Lisa, in which the cisgender girl heroine is already evolved and “doesn’t really have an emotional journey to complete,” Lisa complained, leaving the book with “no point.”

When Marge asks what she is supposed to do about that, Lisa responds:

“Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?” she says, looking at a framed photo of Apu, who operates the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store in Springfield, inscribed with the message, “Don’t have a cow.”

“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” Marge hints.

“If at all,” Lisa adds.

Making Kondabolu’s point, this past November a news channel in Argentina announced the arrival of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the G20 summit, by broadcasting a picture of Apu with the caption “Apu arrives.”


The Crown producers Suzanne Mackie and Andy Harries revealed in March that Matt Smith, who played Queen Elizabeth II’s husband Prince Phillip, got a bigger paycheck for two seasons’ work on the female-led Netflix drama than did Claire Foy — who played, you know, the queen. That was due to his higher profile coming off Doctor Who, they explained at an industry panel moderated by Deadline’s Peter White.

White’s royal scoop did not sit well with some, despite Mackie’s assurance that “going forward, no one gets paid more than the queen.”

A month later, The Daily Mail reported Foy would receive $275K in back pay to bring her to pay parity with Smith.

As of late July, however, Foy said that report still was “not quite correct.”

The Crown‘s pay flap wasn’t the first, though maybe it was the most regal. In January, Mark Wahlberg announced in he would donate, in Michelle Williams’ name, the $1.5M he got paid for doing reshoots on the film All the Money in the World – reshoots for which Williams only got the $1,000 per diem. Also in January, an anonymously created TV writers survey circulated asking writers, their assistants and showrunners’ assistants to share their salaries. The gender pay disparity results were eye-opening.


President Trump already was known to watch and promote Fox News Channel shows via Twitter. And FNC’s primetime star Sean Hannity long has been called Trump’s Shadow Chief of Staff. But eyebrows rose and stayed that way in 2018’s unprecedented display of President-on-News Network-iness. Bill Shine, who resigned as co-president of Fox News in May 2017 after being criticized for his handling of various sexual harassment claims at the network, was named to run Trump’s communication operations, while Trump’s former communications aide Hope Hicks became Chief Communications Officer at New Fox. And fingers were wagged when FNC stars Hannity and Jeanine “Democrats Are Demon Rats” Pirro appeared onstage a Trump rally to foam over, with Hannity declaring all members of the media covering, from the back of the hall, to be “Fake News.”

Fox News recently seems to have tried adding some daylight between Trump and his fave morning show Fox & Friends; but when one of the curvy-couch crowd actually takes issue with a Trump move, it is considered so extraordinary as to make headlines.


Deadspin released a chilling video compilation of local anchors at Sinclair TV stations around the country being compelled to read the same script warning viewers of the danger of “fake stories” being foisted on an unsuspecting public by unnamed media outlets that are “dangerous to democracy.” Some Sinclair talent likened it to a “hostage” video, but Sinclair bigwigs defended its must-run segments.


Lousy ratings had former Fox News Channel It Girl Megyn Kelly on the endangered list over at NBC, but it was her defense of Halloween costume blackface that caused NBC News to kick the host of Today‘s third hour off the air, despite her on-air apology:


When Corey Lewandowski made a sad-trombone “womp, womp” noise on Fox News Channel during a segment about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome separated from her mother at border as part of Trump’s baby-snatching border policy, he was invited back on Fox News Channel next day, to double down and refuse to apologize:

In May, Full Frontal’s late-night political satirist Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless c*nt” in demanding that the First Daughter live up to her self-described official White House job as advocate for children to get Daddy to cease his baby-snatching border policy. Daddy then demanded TBS cancel Bee’s show and the White House chimed in, calling Bee’s language “vile,” and adding, inaccurately, that the “collective silence by the left and its media allies is appalling,” though she had been much berated by hosts and commentators at cable cousin CNN.

Bee, unlike Lewandowski, apologized, as did TBS, and the segment was pulled.


Showtime’s Who Is America? hit the motherlode when Sacha Baron Cohen convinced Georgia state lawmaker Jason Spencer that exposing his bare buttocks, imitating a Chinese tourist using racial stereotypes and repeatedly yelling the N-word on-air were good career moves. Spencer apologized and refused to step down but eventually resigned.

Among Cohen’s other targets:

  • Former Veep Dick Cheney was happy to sign a waterboarding kit.
  • Roy Moore filed a defamation suit claiming he was tricked into appearing on the show, which caused him to suffer “extreme emotional distress,” kind of like those women who had accused him of inappropriate sexual contact with them they were teens in the 70s.
  • Sarah Palin threatened to sue, but Who Is America? never aired her interview. Cohen told Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. that’s because the Palin segment failed as comedy. Cohen also told Fleming the show was not coming back because you can’t do a second season of lightning in a bottle – or words to that effect.


As one of the faces of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, Colin Kaepernick sparked renewed backlash, with some fans urging a boycott of the company and cutting the Nike logo out of gear they already own.

Country music star John Rich, a former contestant on Donald Trump’s The Celebrity Apprentice, tweeted a picture of one of his crew members holding the tops of a cut pair of Nike socks, with the caption: “Get ready @Nike multiply that by the millions.”

But, Nike stock jumped 5% since the company named the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback the star of its 30th anniversary ad campaign, CBS reported.

Kaepernick was the first to kneel before NFL games to protest police brutality resulting in the deaths of unarmed black Americans. President Trump is among those insisting Kaepernick and colleagues are dissing the American flag. Kaepernick is suing the NFL, alleging collusion to keep him out of the league over his protests.


Charlie Rose, tossed out of CBS News and PBS in 2017 over allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, seemed to have a lock on the prize for Year’s Craziest #MeToo Comeback Bid since April. That’s when Tina Brown told a gathering at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy Women’s Luncheon that she had been pitched a program in which Rose, who got canned by PBS and CBS News after reports of inappropriate behavior, would interview other high-profile men who, like him, had been kicked to the curb by their #MeToo scandals.

But, when pressed, Brown could not remember who was behind the project she had been pitched to produce.

Then, on Christmas Eve, Spacey kneecapped Rose, posting a video on his Twitter account, in character as House of Cards’ Frank Underwood.

Spacey’s video was unveiled shortly after word broke that the actor had been charged with indecent assault and battery, and would be arraigned in early January for allegedly grabbing the genitals of an 18-year-old at a Nantucket nightclub back in 2016. (Spacey also is under investigation in the UK regarding multiple sexual assault allegations.)

Spacey got fired from his Underwood role on Showtime’s political drama in ’17. Even so, he appeared in his “Let Me Be Frank” video in character and in a Christmas apron.

“I know what you want. You want me back,” Spacey/Underwood smiled. “They’re just dying to have me declare that everything said is true, and that I got what I deserved. I can promise you this: If I didn’t pay the price for the things we both know I did do, I’m certainly not going to pay the price for the things I didn’t do!”

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