A whirlwind of sexual assault allegations against Danny Masterson came out last month, ultimately leading to Netflix firing Masterson from his role on the original series The Ranch. Masterson denies the accusations, but damage to his career has already been done.
Fans of the show who don't follow entertainment news closely may find it a bit shocking when the The Ranch returns next year without one of its main characters. That's because the story of Masterson's alleged assaults broke quickly, buried under the scandals surrounding several other prominent men in the entertainment industry.
Masterson was being investigated for sexual assault for a year before the story gained publicity. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office had reports from four different women that Masterson had drugged them and raped them as they lost consciousness. Two of the women were in long-term relationships with Masterson, and said they were assaulted on multiple occasions.
One of Masterson's ex-girlfriends, Chrissie Bixler, spoke out about her experience just more than a year ago. She has said Masterson was physically and mentally abusive throughout their six year relationship, and blames the Church of Scientology for coercing her into silence and submissiveness.
In 2016, Bixler broke her silence on the viral Twitter hashtag "WhyWomenDontReport." The conversation was sparked by allegations against then-presidential nominee Donald Trump. For her part, Bixler tweeted “Because your boyfriend tells you it’s not rape if you’re in a relationship and then his church covers it up. #WhyWomenDontReport.” The post was later deleted.
Once Bixler broke her silence, she couldn't be stopped. She railed against Masterson and those who hired him. She also spoke out against Scientology and said the church was complicit in the crimes of powerful members. By the time figures like Harvey Weinstein began being toppled by accusations of sexual misconduct, Bixler was at war.
In March news broke of the LAPD investigation #DannyMasterson &his publicist named a victim &slandered her. Which victim will be outed 2day?— chrissie carnell-bixler (@ChrissieBixler) November 2, 2017
Bixler came into contact with other accusers. She also gained the support of actress Leah Remini, who has been working to expose the inner working of the Church of Scientology for a few years now. Remini believed Bixler and offered support. Remini's show, Scientology and the Aftermath, won an Emmy.
In this time, Bixler says she was contacted by another accuser who was also a former Scientologist. The second accuser remained anonymous, but they shared some new information, including a recorded phone call with Masterson's publicist, Jenni Weinman.
Meanwhile, Masterson categorically denied all the claims against him. The actor said that he had sexual relations with all the women accusing him of rape, but that each incident had been consensual. Jenni Weinman, who had been Masterson's publicist for nearly 20 years, became embroiled in the controversy.
In late November, the anonymous accuser's recording came out with Weinman saying Masterson's assaults against Bixler couldn't be classified as "rape" since the two had been dating at the time.
Exclusive: In audio of a phone call I obtained, @dannymasterson's publicist, Jenni Weinman, suggests to one of his victims that a woman can't be raped by a man she's in a relationship with. The Church of Scientology told the victim this as well.November 22, 2017
The argument caught the attention of the media and social media, which clapped back.
Weinman released a statement trying to discredit Bixler. Weinman used the authority of the Church of Scientology to back up her claims, playing into Bixler's hand.
Statement made to the press from #DannyMasterson #scientology #JenniWeinman @jdub1976 The ONLY truth to this statement was my name (and the fact that they actually named me 🔥) Lies and intentional and continual infliction of emotional distress. Y’all don’t even know. pic.twitter.com/G2t8A5pGzm— chrissie carnell-bixler (@ChrissieBixler) November 13, 2017
Bixler didn't shy away from the attacks, denying Masterson's story.
Bixler took the fight to Netflix, shaming the company for continuing to employ Masterson even after everything she and other accusers had said about him.
Omg @netflix is this episode about a serial rapist who gets to keep his job which lets his victims once again think that they don’t matter and they are nothing? I’m Fresh Out Of Forgiveness, too, y’all. pic.twitter.com/DmhIv7Nvyz— chrissie carnell-bixler (@ChrissieBixler) November 11, 2017
Bixler accused Netflix of hypocrisy after the streaming giant fired Kevin Spacey from House of Cards then dropped the Weinstein Company over allegations of sexual misconduct.
Public pressure mounted when Masterson tweeted condolences for the victims of the terrorist attack in Egypt. He was met with backlash from those who believed Bixler.
Beyond Bixler's personal story, the outrage against Scientology also worked against Masterson. Recent documentaries like Remini's show and Going Clear have convinced much of the public that the Church is at least partially sinister in its motives.
At the same time, a Netflix executive was approached about Masterson outside of work. When the woman asked Global Kids Content Director Andy Yeatman why the company hadn't addressed the allegations against Masterson, Yeatman replied that Netflix didn't believe the stories.
Yeatman didn't realize at the time that he was speaking to one of Masterson's accusers in the flesh. She replied “I hope no one ever says that to your daughter," through tears.
Netflix was forced to make a decision.
Netflix acted swiftly, firing Masterson the very next day.
"As a result of ongoing discussions, Netflix and the producers have written Danny Masterson out of The Ranch. [Monday] was his last day on the show, and production will resume in early 2018 without him."
Masterson will still appear in the upcoming episodes to finish of season 2, which had already been recorded. It's still unclear whether he'll retain his executive producer credit on the show.
Bixler didn't celebrate too much on social media.
Is #dannymasterson getting his rape victims confused? The first police report that I know of was reported 13 years ago. So who filed in 2002? Also please share where the LAPD ever stated any of these cases were without merit. Actually..... hmmm “we’ll see.” pic.twitter.com/9pHHCGerr9— chrissie carnell-bixler (@ChrissieBixler) December 6, 2017
Through it all, Masterson maintained his innocence.
“I am obviously very disappointed in Netflix’s decision to write my character off of The Ranch,” Masterson said in his statement responding to his termination. From day one, I have denied the outrageous allegations against me. I have never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. In this country, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, in the current political climate, it seems as if you are presumed guilty the moment you are accused. I understand and look forward to clearing my name once and for all.”
Oh my god. Danny Masterson is getting written off of the ranch. So annoying... :( hope they change their minds— Allysha Petkovic (@AllyshaPetko) December 5, 2017
That escalated quickly. Yesterday, they had the opposite opinion of him. It'a all about money and perception.— (((Aharon White))) (@filmfresser) December 5, 2017
In the aftermath of the ordeal, no one is much happier. Fans remain angry at losing one of their favorite characters. Masterson vehemently denies any wrongdoing. His accusers still feel frustrated with the slow pace of the LAPD investigation.
Chrissie Bixler, meanwhile, continues her Twitter campaign focusing on the church.
Since Masterson lost his job, Bixler says she has been followed, spied on and threatened. She also claims her dog was killed by undercover operatives for the Church of Scientology.