Two Women Writers Leave Patricia Heaton’s CBS Show Following Allegations Of Inappropriate Touching & Retaliation
Two women writers, Broti Gupta and Margee Magee, have departed the TV series Carol’s Second Act. Their exit follows allegations of inappropriate touching against executive producer David Hunt, who is the husband to the show’s star, Patricia Heaton, and alleged retaliation on the part of the series’ showrunners, Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern, as reasons for leaving, according to The New York Times.
CBS, which has been under heightened scrutiny as a network due to cases of sexual misconduct that led to the resignation of Les Moonves and the firing of anchor Charlie Rose, has maintained that it took proper steps to address the accusations against Hunt appropriately. Hunt has stated through his lawyer that the accusations were mischaracterizations of his behavior. Haskins and Halpern also stated that the changes on the set were coincidental, and were not acts of retaliation.
Gupta, the first to depart the show, accused Hunt of inappropriate touching on two separate occasions. The touching included groping her thigh outside a bar and also grabbing her shoulders forcefully while on set. Gupta then held several meetings with CBS human resources representatives, emphasizing that though she had been uncomfortable with Hunt’s touching, she did not want him to be fired.
“I told them just my own personal code of ethics, which is that if there is space for education instead of punitive measures, then I believe in education,” Gupta said to the Times.
Shortly after filing the complaints, the show's writers were told not to attend show rehearsals unless credited as the main writer, and that they would also not be able to run revised jokes during rehearsals. Gupta chose to leave the show shortly after these changes were implemented, believing that she was purposely being shut out of doing her work. The showrunners dispute this characterization through their lawyer, Andrew Brettler, who told the Times they cleared the change through CBS's HR department, calling it a "coincidence."
Magee, who had supported Gupta in her decision to report the conduct to showrunners Haskins and Halpern and HR. After speaking with HR executive Tim Farrell about the new restrictions on writers, Magee claims that she too was stripped of all her writing responsibilities. Magee agreed with Gupta that Hunt should be educated rather than fired.
“All we wanted was for him to watch, like, a 45-minute harassment video. None of this had to happen,” Magee told the Times.
CBS has maintained that it handled both complaints fairly, and that Hunt cooperated with the investigation and completed sexual harassment training. CBS also agreed to pay both women what they were owed contractually, and support the women in their request to be allowed to talk about their experience while on the show without requiring them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
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Correction: The headline on this story and some information within it has been changed and clarified to reflect that Hunt is accused of inappropriate touching and not sexual harassment. We regret the error.