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Full House creator Jeff Franklin has brought some star power into his suit against Bryan Behar, who replaced him as showrunner of Fuller House, and is also skewering the investigation Warner Bros. did of his alleged bad behavior before removing him from the reboot.
Franklin was ousted in February 2018 amid complaints about gender discrimination and other inappropriate behavior, but he maintains it was all orchestrated by Behar. Franklin sued Behar in April 2019, alleging he kept a “little black book” with notes about anything Franklin did that could be twisted and used against him and then took that information to Warners.
Behar responded by filing an anti-SLAPP motion. He argues that the suit arises from protected activity, specifically free speech regarding an issue of public interest. Behar maintains that he didn’t talk to the press as alleged, but his statements to a Warners’ investigator about Franklin are “indisputably” activity in furtherance of his right of free speech and, ultimately, they didn’t have a substantial impact on Warners’ decision to terminate Franklin. He also says he was approached by the company, not the other way around.
Behar also submitted a declaration from a Warners exec who led the investigation. Silisha Platon, vp labor relations, said a female former Fuller House writer complained to the company in November 2017 about a “toxic and inappropriate” work environment, and a second woman had raised similar concerns. Platon in the declaration said she chose to interview four women who wrote for the show and didn’t come back for unknown reasons, and four other people, including Behar, who could potentially confirm or deny their claims. She ultimately concluded “Franklin’s conduct had created a toxic work environment that impacted female writers and persons of color” and recommended his contract not be renewed.
Typically, once an anti-SLAPP motion is filed, discovery is paused until the court rules on it, but back in December 2019 Franklin convinced L.A. County Superior Court Judge Craig Karlan to let him depose Behar, Platon and others.
Now, a year and a half later, Franklin has filed his opposition to that motion, and he’s got some attention-grabbing declarations of his own.
John Stamos, who starred in the original Full House and returned for Fuller House as both an actor and executive producer, estimates he spent about 200 hours with Franklin during the first three seasons of the reboot and never witnessed any of the alleged conduct — and he says Behar showed him the infamous little black book during a very strange meeting at a bagel shop.
“I have seen Bryan Behar’s journal of notes and photographs relating to Mr. Franklin, and have heard multiple people discuss it,” says Stamos in the declaration. “Specifically, shortly after Mr. Franklin was not asked to return to Fuller House, I received a direct message on social media from Eydie Faye, a writer working on Fuller House, stating that Mr. Behar had been plotting to get Mr. Franklin removed from the show, and that he had a ‘little black book’ containing negative material concerning Mr. Franklin.”
Stamos says he met with Behar and his producing partner a few weeks after Warners announced Franklin’s contract wouldn’t be renewed and says Behar got defensive when the topic came up.
“I then asked him about the ‘little black book’ and Mr. Behar immediately denied any knowledge of it,” says Stamos. “I recall feeling very uneasy during this discussion as Mr. Behar became jittery and nervous. Shockingly, at the very end of our meeting, Mr. Behar impulsively pulled out a black journal and showed it to me. … I saw that the journal contained photographs which appeared to have been taken at a party at Mr. Franklin’s house. Mr. Behar did not explain why he had the journal, why he brought the journal to our meeting, why he initially denied having it, why he decided to ultimately show it to me, or why he was keeping it in the first place.”
Less shiny, but potentially more significant, is a declaration from Amy Oppenheimer, an attorney and expert retained by Franklin who specializes in investigations of workplace complaints. Her opinion, after reviewing depositions, declarations and other case files, is that Warners didn’t conduct a “timely, fair and thorough investigation” into the allegations.
“Warner Brothers claims that in response, it conducted an ‘investigation,’ also stating that what they conducted was a workplace assessment (or ‘climate survey’), rather than an investigation,” writes Oppenheimer, adding that investigations and assessments are inherently different in both purpose and protocol and noting a disparity between what Platon said in her declaration and in her deposition.
“Assessments are not a vehicle that is used to take action against people, and thus they focus on generalized questions and findings rather than specific ones,” she explains. “That is, a climate survey is not assessing credibility, but rather taking information at face value. As a result, the information provided may be biased or untrue, and yet there is generally no attempt made to uncover this.”
Oppenheimer says it would be “inherently unfair” to use such an assessment to make employment decisions. “If Warner Brothers was going to rely on the information from a climate survey, they should have gone back and determined the veracity of the information provided and ensured that Franklin had an opportunity to respond,” she says. “This would include examining possible bias of witnesses along with whether the information provided was based on direct knowledge or hearsay.”
But Franklin wasn’t contacted, and an intern conducted four of the eight employee interviews. Says Oppenheimer, “The DFEH guidelines set out that both parties should be provided with due process. There can be no fairness when there is no attempt to hear from one side.”
Franklin’s attorney Larry Stein pulls no punches in the opposition to Behar’s motion to strike, which is embedded below, even as large sections of it are redacted.
“Although Behar, allied with WB, hoped to summarily dispose of this case based on self-serving (and untrue) declarations, discovery has since revealed that Behar directed WB’s superficial ‘climate survey’ by peddling defamatory information about Franklin to WB and rallying others to do the same, causing Franklin’s abrupt termination from the series he created and nurtured to success,” writes Stein in the filing.
He argues that Behar’s motion fails because “garden variety private employment” disputes aren’t matters of public interest, and notes that Warners didn’t even issue a press release when it made its decision. “The fact that the #metoo movement has rightfully attracted attention does not mean that any allegation about any entertainment based employee falls within the ‘public interest’ for purposes of the anti-SLAPP standard,” writes Stein. “[T]hat Franklin’s termination was subsequently covered by the press does not establish a ‘public interest.'”
While Stein argues Franklin could prove Behar acted with actual malice if deemed a public figure, he doesn’t think he should have to meet that standard. “The overall success of Full House as a show cannot impute public figure status on a behind-the-scenes individual especially where, as here, the conduct involves private statements concerning his own life and thoughts,” writes Stein. “That some portion of the public may find this interesting does not thrust Franklin into the category of ‘public figure.'”
Stein also argues that Franklin has proven a likelihood that he’ll succeed on the merits of his claims thanks to evidence they’ve acquired so far during discovery and that triable issues of fact remain as to the influence Behar ultimately had over the “biased and gossip-fueled survey.”
Behar and Warners have not yet responded to requests for comment.
A hearing is currently set for June 30.
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