On Wednesday night’s finale reunion special, host Jeff Probst addressed the show’s errors and personally apologized to contestant Kellee Kim, who first spoke out about the 48-year-old player’s conduct on the show before she was eliminated.
“We are committed to doing our part to turn this into something positive,” Probst told Kim.
In response, Tina Tchen, president and CEO of the Time’s Up Foundation, released a statement commending the CBS series and Probst for how they handled the controversy during the finale.
“Tonight, millions of viewers witnessed an unprecedented cultural moment in television history: Survivor host Jeff Probst publicly acknowledged that the show failed Kellee Kim when she came forward to say she had been sexually harassed and Survivor did not take appropriate action,” Tchen said. “In doing so, Survivor used its cultural influence to take responsibility and have an honest and direct dialogue about a serious, systemic problem that has been ignored for far too long.”
“Sadly, what happened to Kellee on Survivor this season is the same sort of painful scenario that plays out every day across industries and occupations, and up and down the wage scale: someone is treated inappropriately in a working environment and is concerned they will be retaliated against for raising the issue with management — only to have those exact fears come to pass,” Tchen continued.
“But tonight, in an emotional and raw interview, Survivor did the right thing and gave Kellee a platform to share her truth,” she added. “What’s more, Probst began the conversation with three powerful words: ‘You were right.’ And Kellee was right: Because whether you are on a reality show, in an office, or on the factory floor, every person deserves to feel safe from harassment, assault, and abuse at work, no exceptions.”
“Culture in any workplace starts at the top,” Tchen said. “It is powerful to see Probst take ownership of this issue, and it is also really powerful to see CBS’s Survivor acknowledge its mistakes and commit to beginning the hard work necessary to take sexual harassment out of the game and ensure contestants and crew alike feel safe and respected at all times moving forward.”
The Time’s Up Initiative, which was founded on Jan. 1, 2018, has raised millions of dollars for the Legal Defense Fund, which helps victims of sexual harassment protect themselves from sexual misconduct and the fallout from reporting it.
When Kim was given the opportunity to speak during the reunion show, she expressed she was nervous about finally having her moment to address the scandal before explaining that one of the hardest things for her was the fact that Spilo remained in the game even after she expressed concerns about his behavior.
“The reason why is not necessarily the injustice, it’s because I felt like I spoke up and I was not being supported or believed,” Kim said. “And when someone goes through something like this or even something remotely like it, to not be supported and not be believed is really the hardest thing.”
Probst said that Kim’s points were the biggest takeaway that he and the others behind the show learned from the situation.
“Your voice should have been enough,” Probst told Kim. “One silver lining is it will next time. We learned a lot from you being willing to stand up and take it and continue and try and play.”
Spilo was eventually removed from the game after an incident in which he allegedly touched a female producer’s thigh as he was getting into a transport boat.
The incident came just weeks after Spilo, a Hollywood agent, was accused of inappropriately touching Kim. During the controversial episode, Kim expressed concern that Spilo had violated her personal space, even after she made multiple requests for him to stop. He was not removed at the time and it was Kim that was voted off the island.
In addition to his removal from the show, producers also uninvited Spilo from the finale reunion special. Ahead of the finale, Spilo apologized for his actions in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday.
“I am deeply sorry for how my actions affected Kellee during the taping of this season of Survivor,” he said. “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.”
“I truly regret that anyone was made to feel uncomfortable by my behavior,” Spilo continued. “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.”