'Survivor's' Jeff Probst apologizes to contestant for alleged sexual harassment
Longtime “Survivor” host Jeff Probst apologized to former show contestant Kellee Kim for her male competitor’s inappropriate touching and behavior, which ultimately cost him his spot on the island, according to several reports.
“Survivor: Island of the Idols” revealed the CBS show’s 39th winner during Wednesday night’s finale. The episode also included a cast reunion portion, which is typically aired live but was pre-recorded reportedly for sensitivity purposes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Probst, the show's executive producer and host, addressed Kim before the reunion kicked off to tell her: “You were right.”
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“You were right to speak up," Probst said, according to the Times. "You were right to step forward ... and to speak your truth. And I want to acknowledge and apologize for your pain. You didn’t ask for it, and you didn’t deserve it.”
It was reportedly the first time he acknowledged the behavior to Kim.
Kim first complained about fellow contestant Dan Spilo’s unwanted touching during the first episode of the season and continued to do so until she was kicked off the island in episode 8.
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But she remained outspoken on the topic, often taking to Twitter express her opinion and vent about news on the topic.
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“The last seven, nine, however many months it’s been, it’s been really difficult and hard, and what that apology meant wasn’t just — it’s not about right or wrong — it was about being heard and seen and believed,” Kim told The Times after the reunion aired.
On Dec. 11, Spilo was asked to leave the show after a separate incident of “inappropriate touching,” not involving Kim, she said in a tweet, along with a statement.
“While Dan’s dismissal has validated the concerns that I raised from the beginning of this season, I wish no one else had to be subjected to this type of behavior,” she said in the statement, in part. “CBS and Survivor were on noticed of Dan’s behavior from the very first days of the game. And, as Survivor fans know, shortly after I spoke on camera, I was voted off the show.”
But Spilo's abrupt exit didn't end questions about whether the network fumbled a #MeToo-era issue that it knew about months ago.
Acknowledging "things we could have done differently," CBS late Tuesday announced that in future seasons, incidents of alleged harassment or unwelcome physical contact would not be allowed to be part of the game. The network said it would beef up training for its staff in handling such issues and hire someone so contestants can make complaints about behavior confidentially apart from show producers.
Shortly after he was removed from the show – and just days before the finale aired – Spilo apologized to Kim in a statement shared with PEOPLE, which reported he was uninvited from the taping of the show’s finale.
“After apologizing at the tribal council when I first learned that Kellee still felt uncomfortable, I want to make sure I do so again, clearly and unambiguously,” Spilo said in the statement. “I truly regret that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable by my behavior… In my life, I have always tried to treat others with decency, integrity and kindness. I can only hope that my actions in the future can help me to make amends and show me to be the kind of father, husband, colleague and friend that I always aim to be.”
While Kim called his timing “curious,” she wrote in a tweet that she hoped he was being sincere.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.