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CBS Addresses Survivor Controversy, Suspended Contestant Formally Apologizes

Photo: CBS Photo Archive/CBS via Getty Images

CBS and the producers of Survivor have formally responded to the first-ever ejection of a contestant from the series. The contestant, Dan Spilo, also apologized in a statement to PEOPLE magazine. Both statements were released on the eve of Survivor’s 39th season finale.

Spilo was removed from the show following an incident of unwanted touching involving a member of the show’s production staff. He had weeks earlier been accused of unwanted touching by a fellow contestant, Kellee Kim, but remained on the show while Kim was eliminated. “During the course of the production, we listened to the players intently, investigated responsibly and responded accordingly, including taking the unprecedented step of removing a player from the game,” CBS said in their statement. “At the same time, we are responsible for the final outcome of this season. We recognize there are things we could have done differently, and we are determined to do better going forward.”

In their full statement, CBS and Survivor producers outline changes that will be implemented in future seasons of Survivor, including new “personal space” guidelines as well as an on-set executive specifically tasked with the management of sexual misconduct. The statement also specifies that “a new rule will be implemented stating unwelcome physical contact, sexual harassment and impermissible biases cannot be brought into the competition and will not be permitted as part of gameplay.” This seems to address criticism that producers allowed Spilo’s actions to play out in real time as part of the competition, instead of taking a hard-line stance against sexual misconduct after Kim’s reporting of harassment.

In his statement to PEOPLE magazine, Spilo wrote, “I am deeply sorry for how my actions affected Kellee during the taping of this season of Survivor. 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.” His full statement can be read here, and CBS’s statement can be read here.

CBS Addresses Survivor Controversy, Dan Spilo Apologizes