Former That 70s Show star Danny Masterson has been fired from his new Netflix comedy series The Ranch amid rape allegations made against him. “As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of The Ranch,” a Netflix spokesman told CNN in a statement Tuesday. Netflix confirmed in the statement that Monday was his last day on the show and he would not be welcome back when they resume production of The Ranch in 2018. Masterson starred in and was an executive producer for the show.
Netflix’s decision to cut ties with the actor, best known for playing Steven Hyde on the popular TV series That 70s Show, was made not long after the Huffington Post published a story about one of Masterson’s alleged victims approaching a Netflix executive about their decision to keep Masterson on The Ranch. According to the report, executive Andy Yeatman told the woman they didn’t believe the alleged victims, after which she revealed she was one of them.
Following the story’s publication, Netflix has called Yeatman’s remarks “careless” and “uninformed,” stating they “do not represent the views of the company.” Netflix also said they were aware of the allegations against Danny Masterson and were “following the current investigation.” But many were not pleased with the company’s slow reaction to the sexual assault allegations, particularly after stars like Kevin Spacey had been immediately ousted from the Netflix series House of Cards following accusations against him. A petition was created for Netflix to cancel The Ranch and earned support from more than 39,000 people. Masterson vehemently denied the allegations.
Back in March, the story broke that Masterson was being investigated by the LAPD for “at least three alleged cases of rape or sodomy of women who were also Scientologists and who claim they were pressured by the Church of Scientology not to contact police or go public with their accusations.” A law enforcement agent reportedly told a Huffington Post reporter that evidence against Masterson as “overwhelming,” but the case has stalled in large part due to Masterson’s Scientology affiliation.
Four women have now claimed Masterson raped them in the early 2000s and at least three of the women were Scientologists. The Huffington Post reports that one of Masterson’s accusers filed a police report in 2004 saying that Masterson raped her while she was “passed out.”
A rep for the Church of Scientology told TMZ, “The Church adamantly denies that it ever ignores any allegations of criminal behaviour, especially at the expense of alleged victims. What is being stated is utterly untrue. This has nothing to do with religion. This story is being manipulated to push a bigoted agenda. The Church follows all laws and cooperates with law enforcement. Any statement or implication to the contrary is false.”
A representative for Masterson claims that the women were motivated to come forward by a producer for Leah Remini‘s Scientology TV show, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. The rep also said one of the accusers was once his girlfriend, who continued to date him after the alleged incident.
They’re calling the accusations a PR stunt for the show and against Scientology: “We are aware of [the alleged victim’s] 16-year-old allegations. It was only after [the alleged victim] was in contact with Leah Remini that she made allegations of sexual assault by Mr. Masterson. The alleged incident occurred in the middle of their 6-year relationship, after which she continued to be his longtime girlfriend.”
They also claimed his former girlfriend had made previous claims she was raped by at least 3 other famous actors and musicians, and that she’d continued to pursue Masterson after their relationship had ended, even threatening to beat up his current wife Bijou Phillips. The rep stated, “In fact, we are informed by the Church that the only demand [the alleged victim] made of the Church after Danny broke up with her was asking for their help to intervene so the breakup would not be permanent.”
Masterson responded to the news in a statement to the Huffington Post by his lawyer. “I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix’s decision to write my character off of The Ranch,” said Masterson. “From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
“However, in the current climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused,” stated the actor. “I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all. In the meantime, I want to express my gratitude to the cast and crew that I’ve worked so closely with over the past three seasons. I wish them nothing but success. I am also so thankful to the fans that have supported me and continue to do so.”
Among the crew Masterson mentioned in his statement is former That 70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher who was starring alongside Masterson on The Ranch. Kutcher is yet to comment on his friend and co-star’s firing, but the two were obviously close friends, spending time together both on-and-off set. Netflix has stated that Masterson will only appear in the second half of Season 2 of The Ranch as he already filmed that set of episodes.
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