The decision to air a fired actor’s final set of performances might sound strange, especially since the streaming service swiftly fired Ed Westwick, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. after their sexual misconduct allegations surfaced. But it fits into the larger narrative around this particular #MeToo controversy—one that Netflix failed to address until the last possible moment, and only after extreme pressure.
In light of The Ranch’s “Part 5” return, one of Masterson’s accusers, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, told The Daily Beast that she believes Netflix ought to be ashamed of their actions. “We get it, Netflix,” she wrote in a statement. “You don’t believe us. You rub salt in our wounds. Is Danny Masterson still co-executive producer of The Ranch? You knew you had to fire him, but you do a bunch of reshoots so you can finish our rapist’s storyline up and give him a respectable send off. And there he is on TV in the new season. Kevin Spacey? Fired on the spot. Production halted. Ed Westwick? Louis C.K.? Are there active investigations into these accused men? Do you just not believe us? Do you agree with Jenni Weinman and the Church of Scientology when they say you cannot rape your wife or girlfriend? Are you afraid of Scientology’s Fair Game?” (Masterson is a lifelong Scientologist, and Weinman is his publicist.)
“Fair Game Law,” according to journalist Tony Ortega, who has reported extensively on Scientology and on the Masterson case, was first introduced by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1965. In 1967, Hubbard refined the policy by announcing that enemies of the Church may be “deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”
While The Church of Scientology’s public stance is that the “Fair Game” policy was canceled in 1968, Ortega published a lengthy report in April detailing the Church’s alleged intimidation campaign against Bixler and her husband, musician Cedric Bixler-Zavala of At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta. The couple believes that they have been “followed, hacked, and harassed”—and say that the campaign was in retaliation for Bixler speaking out about her assault.
“Cedric and Chrissie continue to wait to see what charges might get filed against Masterson,” Ortega’s article concluded. “And they continue to deal with bizarre goings on in LA—again with their trash, and their car doors being opened, and with their phones and their email accounts.”
Bobette Riales came forward with her own sexual-assault allegation against Masterson in December when she tweeted, “I stayed quiet long enough. Danny Masterson repeatedly raped me.” She told The Daily Beast that, “for Netflix to have taken such stern reaction and action regarding Kevin or Louis and then also firing Danny as well… Why now are they continuing to support in a half-ass way as a co-producer, meaning he still gets a check, and also airing shows after he was already fired?” Riales confirmed that she is a part of the LAPD case, and said that she has “every intention to keep speaking out.”
When asked if Masterson would be maintaining his executive producer credit on The Ranch, Netflix did not respond to requests for comment.
In March 2017, news broke that the Los Angeles Police Department was investigating allegations made by three women who said that the actor assaulted them in the early 2000s. The disturbing allegations included anally raping a girlfriend while she was unconscious, and sexually assaulting and choking a woman at a party.
Masterson issued a statement through his publicist, Jenni Weinman, calling out one of his alleged victims by name and claiming that, “It was only after Chrissie Carnell was in contact with Leah Remini that she made allegations of sexual assault by Mr. Masterson.”
The statement continued, “The alleged incident occurred in the middle of their 6-year relationship, after which she continued to be his longtime girlfriend.”
In November, Huffington Post’s Yashar Ali reported that, “Four women have accused Masterson of raping them in the early 2000s,” but “a months-long investigation into multiple allegations of rape against actor Danny Masterson has inexplicably stalled, despite the Los Angeles County district attorney having compelling evidence in the case.” Ali added that, according to sources with knowledge of the case, evidence included “emails sent to and from Scientology officers at the time the alleged rapes happened.” Masterson is a lifelong member of the Church of Scientology.
Publicly, Netflix stated, “We are aware of the allegations and the subsequent investigation, and will respond if developments occur.” In response to their inaction, Masterson’s named accuser, Chrissie Carnell Bixler, told The Daily Beast that she was “sick” over Netflix’s insistence on “continuing their working relationship with a man who has violently raped and abused so many women.”
“Four months after the story broke, and the LAPD confirmed a criminal investigation, Netflix ordered another season of The Ranch,” Bixler, who is a former Scientologist, continued. “For me, what Netflix has done feels like a continuation of how the Church of Scientology made me feel when I reported my rape to them, as well as how Danny Masterson made me feel when I would beg him for an apology, an explanation, anything.”
When Netflix did finally take a stand, it was in reaction to thoughtless comments made by a now former employee. As reported by the Huffington Post, a Netflix executive told a fellow parent at a children’s soccer game, when asked about the Masterson accusations, that “we don’t believe them,” meaning the actor’s alleged victims. The woman, unbeknownst to the executive, was one of Masterson’s accusers, and responded, “I’m one of them.” Netflix subsequently fired the exec, Andy Yeatman, saying that his sideline statements “were careless, uninformed and do not represent the views of the company.” A day after the Huffington Post report, Netflix also announced that Masterson himself would be leaving The Ranch.
“As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of The Ranch. Yesterday was his last day on the show, and production will resume in early 2018 without him,” a Netflix spokesman said. Masterson maintained his innocence, issuing a statement in which he expressed his disappointment in Netflix’s decision. He was subsequently dropped by United Talent Agency. Meanwhile petitions have been circulating amongst diehard The Ranch fans, urging Netflix to bring Masterson back; one reads, “There are millions of people who love ‘Rooster’ a character played by Danny Masterson. It’s time to see him return to his rightful place.”
The Daily Beast has previously reported on the apparent hypocrisy in how Netflix has dealt with their accused actors, juxtaposing the swift oustings of Louis C.K. and Kevin Spacey with their reticence to cut ties with Danny Masterson. The fact that Masterson will be appearing in new episodes of The Ranch more than six months after he was fired seems like a fittingly awful end to this poorly-handled controversy. Unsurprisingly, Masterson’s role in the new season was downplayed in the trailer, where he can be spotted for half a second, clapping in a crowd.
UPDATE: Following the publication of this story, the Church of Scientology issued the following statement (through their attorneys) to The Daily Beast: “The Church adamantly denies the implication it would ignore the criminal behavior of certain members, 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.”
Jenni Weinman, meanwhile, issued the following statement: “Jenni Weinman is adamant she never said or implied that a woman cannot be raped by her husband or boyfriend, an archaic theory that she affirms is repugnant.”