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Jason Bateman Under Fire for Defending Verbal Harassment on 'Arrested Development' Set

Early Thursday morning, Jason Bateman tweeted out an apology following criticism that his comments in a recent New York Times interview belittled verbal abuse and defended actor Jeffrey Tambor, who has been accused of sexual misconduct.

The actor, known for his role as Michael Bluth in “Arrested Development” and most recently, Netflix’s “Ozark,” spoke to the New York Times with the rest of the “Arrested Development” cast about the show’s newest season.

When a reporter brought up accusations against Tambor (who plays Bateman’s father on the show), Bateman and other male cast members were quick to come to his defense. Tambor was recently fired from the show “Transparent” after cast members accused him of sexual misconduct. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, Tambor also confessed to yelling at actress Jessica Walter, who plays his “Arrested Development” wife, Lucille Bluth.

In a question directed at Tambor about the allegations, Bateman said the cast was a “family” and that he had zero complaints about Tambor’s behavior.

Again, not to belittle it, but a lot of stuff happens in 15 years. I know nothing about ‘Transparent’ but I do know a lot about ‘Arrested Development.’ And I can say that no matter what anybody in this room has ever done — and we’ve all done a lot, with each other, for each other, against each other — I wouldn’t trade it for the world and I have zero complaints.

In a question specifically about the time Tambor “blew up” at Walter, Bateman said the entertainment industry is a breeding ground for “atypical behavior.”

Again, not to belittle it or excuse it or anything, but in the entertainment industry it is incredibly common to have people who are, in quotes, ‘difficult…’ And what you learn is context. And you learn about character and you learn about work habits, work ethics, and you start to understand. Because it’s a very amorphous process, this sort of [expletive] that we do, you know, making up fake life. It’s a weird thing, and it is a breeding ground for atypical behavior and certain people have certain processes.

Actor Alia Shawkat — who plays Maeby Funke — chimed in, saying working in the entertainment industry doesn’t mean the behavior was acceptable. Walter, through tears, said she had come to forgive Tambor, but that she hadn’t experienced something “that bad” on set before.

“Verbally, yes, he harassed me, but he did apologize. I have to let it go,” she said.

Although multiple cast members defended Tambor’s action, Bateman took most of the heat. Despite the fact that he said, “not to belittle it,” three times in the interview, people felt he was, in fact, belittling what had happened to Walter in order to defend Tambor.

Hayley MacMillen, the digital wellness editor at Allure Magazine, tweeted:

Something I’m stuck on from the Arrested interview is Jason Bateman calling the cast “a family,” as if placing abusive behavior in that context excuses it. There’s a long tradition of considering abuse of women a private “family affair” rather than, you know, objectively wrong.

In his apology, Bateman said he did not mean to sound insensitive to Walter’s experience, and that he was in the wrong.

If you’re someone who’s experienced sexual or verbal abuse, it can feel invalidating when public figures come to the defense of someone who’s been accused. Please know there’s no excuse for abusive behavior, and if this news is hard, you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

Image via Creative Commons/Ping Foo

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