CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase Director Rick Najera Steps Down After Sexual Harassment Allegations
Since the Harvey Weinstein story broke, the day of reckoning has arrived for a growing list of powerful men in the entertainment industry and beyond who, like Weinstein, have a past of allegedly inappropriate workplace behavior and sexual misconduct. In the comedy world, just last week the news broke that Gilbert Rozon, the founder of Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, stepped down after nine women came forward with allegations against him that span from the 1980s to recent JFL festivals. Now, Variety reports that Rick Najera, director of CBS’s annual Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase, has also resigned following allegations against him. Here’s the statement CBS gave to Variety about the decision:
In March 2017, CBS became aware of inappropriate comments made during the production of the Diversity Comedy Showcase, and remedial action was taken at that time, which the company felt was appropriate to the matter. Subsequent information has recently emerged. After looking into these reports and a discussion with Mr. Najera, he has resigned from his role with the Diversity Comedy Showcase.
Variety’s report cites complaints of sexual harassment against Najera going back to at least 2009, when he allegedly told a performer “he and his wife were in an open relationship, implying the performer that he was interested in pursuing a relationship, as well as a 2014 incident in which he was accused of making lewd comments to a second performer.” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom confirmed to Variety that she not only emailed performers to warn them about Najera’s behavior but encouraged past participants to come forward with their allegations, with a source telling Variety that Bloom “was so upset at the way the actors/writers were being treated.”
CBS has not yet announced a replacement for Najera, who has been involved with the Diversity Showcase for 13 years.
UPDATE: A rep for Najera released the below statement to Variety on behalf of Najera “and his devastated wife and family,” calling the allegations “deliberate and cruel defamations” and an “attack”:
We are heartbroken and confounded by deliberate and cruel defamations. Anyone who has been slammed by libelous deceptions knows exactly how we feel. As a family, we are hurt and shocked. It’s unbelievable that a diversity program I directed and we supported for more than a decade would be twisted against me.
As we wrestle with our reactions to this attack, I want to remind people that I’ve spent my whole life not only making people laugh – but showcasing our shared humanity. I have spoken publicly of my near-death experience and the pain and discrimination that, unfortunately, is a part of Hollywood. This is now the most painful and unjust situation I – and my family — have ever experienced.
Right now, we want to thank the people who are standing with us and the flood of calls and emails of support from those who know my character and who know the truth. We are strengthened by their friendship and love as we begin to right this wrong.