‘Carol’s Second Act’ Writers Quit After Patricia Heaton’s Husband Accused of Misconduct

Therapy Dogs
Sonja Flemming/CBS

Writers on CBS’ new comedy Carol’s Second Act quit following accusations against executive producer and star Patricia Heaton‘s husband, David Hunt.

Broti Gupta went to human resources in September about two instances in which Hunt reportedly “touched her inappropriately” and asked for him to undergo sexual harassment training, The New York Times reports. She quit after she said it seemed like she was being punished for the complaints.

Hunt allegedly “hugged her twice from the side … before he complimented her pants and ran a hand up the side of her thigh” following a dinner out with the cast and crew in August. She told her boyfriend, writer Greg Gallant, and a friend, actress Dylan Gelula.

The second incident occurred on set, when Hunt reportedly “took [her] by the shoulders and jerked her forward” while “he seemed to be looking for something.” (Hunt later said he’d been searching for a script.) Co-executive producer and writer Marge Magee witnessed this and said “excuse me” to Hunt, but received no response.

Through his lawyer, Bryan Freedman, Hunt said that he didn’t remember these incidents, and in the case of the latter, “if he did that, it was not intended to be offensive.”

Gupta reportedly went to showrunners Sarah Haskins and Emily Halpern after encouragement from Magee. The investigation into Hunt started after that. Then, changes were made on set that the writers thought were “to keep them separated from Mr. Hunt”: removing them from rehearsal and allowing only each episode’s writer to suggest fixes for jokes that didn’t land. The showrunners’ lawyer said in a statement that those changes had been decided upon prior to the complaints. It was after this that Gupta quit.

“To be clear, we have never done and would never do anything to penalize or retaliate against anyone who raised these concerns,” Haskins and Halpern said in a statement. “We are devastated that many of the inflammatory claims that have been made about us are simply not tethered to the reality of what happened.”

David Hunt and Patricia Heaton (David Livingston/Getty Images)

Then, Magee went to human resources and had what she called a “tense” meeting. After that, she quit because she was “stripped of nearly all her writing responsibilities.” According to the showrunners’ lawyer, that happened prior to the complaints.

The network agreed to their terms: no nondisclosure agreements and to pay out their contracts. After sexual harassment training, Hunt was sent the following in a “closure letter” by CBS: “Your behavior caused the individual who raised the concerns to feel genuinely uncomfortable in the workplace and it reflected a disregard for CBS’ policies and guidance in the matter. You are hereby cautioned not to engage in such behavior.”

Gupta tweeted the link to The New York Times story, with a thread detailing why she quit. “These two women are the reason I quit,” she wrote about the showrunners.

CBS Television Studios released the following statement:

“A claim of unprofessional behavior was made by a writer regarding one of the show’s executive producers. The complaint was reported by a producer to the showrunners, who immediately alerted the production company and the Studio. The matter was promptly investigated by human resources, and appropriate action was taken to address the complaint. The executive producer cooperated fully with the process.

In addition, we looked into allegations of retaliatory conduct by the showrunners at the time they were raised, and we found no evidence of retaliatory intent in their interactions with the writer or the producer. In particular, their decisions about the writers’ procedure during rehearsals and tapings were creatively motivated to streamline their production process and were already being discussed prior to the complaint.

Further, our human resources team always endeavors to address issues in a professional and sensitive manner, and we must clarify that certain allegations about them have either been misstated or taken wholly out of context.

The writer and producer decided to leave the show of their own accord. CBS agreed to their request to be paid for the remainder of their guaranteed episodes this season, and we supported their request to waive any contractual provisions that would prevent them from speaking about their experiences on the show.”