Castaway: No Coercion

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The deposition testimony of Dirk Been, one of the 16 participants from the first season of "Survivor," was publicly released May 25 in connection with two lawsuits over Stacey Stillman's accusations against "Survivor," CBS, and the show's producers, Mark Burnett and SEG, Inc.

In the testimony released by CBS and SEG, Been specifically denies that his vote to oust Stillman from "Survivor" was manipulated by Burnett.

Been testified that his vote against Stillman was entirely his own, for which he takes "full responsibility." Been also confirmed that Mark Burnett directly reminded all the "Survivor" participants that each vote is ultimately up to the participant casting the vote.

At the same time, Been testified that Burnett, in a conversation on Day 9 of the filming, suggested that Been form an alliance to vote against Stillman and to keep Rudy Boesch on the island. Burnett, however, in sworn testimony filed with the Court on April 30, 2001, flatly denied any attempt to influence Been or any other participant voting: "Indeed, at no point during the production of 'Survivor' did I or any other producer, staff member, or crew member ever direct any of the participants to vote for or against any participant, or attempt to manipulate, coerce, induce, intimidate, or influence the participants' voting."

Contrary to Stillman's highly publicized allegations, Been's letter to Burnett in May of last year never mentions his vote against Stillman, never uses the word "manipulation," and never claims that any of Been's own actions were improperly influenced. In his deposition, Been also repeatedly testified that "manipulation" was an inaccurate and unfair characterization of his experience on "Survivor."

Consistent with his letter to Burnett last year, Been testified that, in his view, Burnett's influence and involvement with the production of "Survivor" was at times unfair and improper. However, in a direct contradiction of Stillman's core allegation, Been testified that he was never manipulated, strong-armed or coerced by Mark Burnett.

Under follow-up questioning by Stillman's lawyers, Been reaffirmed his denial of any manipulation, which he rejected as "an unfair summary" of his experience, his letter or his vote.

Been further testified that, because Stillman was voted off by a 5-2 vote, even if he had changed his own vote to keep her on the island, the other 4 votes against her would have eliminated Stillman.

Dr. Sean Kenniff, the other participant whose vote Stillman claims was manipulated, has likewise testified that no such manipulation, coercion or influence took place on the "Survivor" set. In a declaration filed in Court on April 30, 2001, Kenniff testified that he has repeatedly advised Stillman that her allegations are false: "I told Stacey point-blank, and in no uncertain or ambiguous terms, that my vote against her was not in any way manipulated, influenced, coerced, or otherwise improperly affected by Mark Brnett or anyone else on the production staff or crew of the program."

Kenniff's testimony is supported by testimony from all the other members of the "Tagi" tribe on "Survivor" - Richard Hatch, Rudy Boesch, Susan Hawk, Kelly Wiglesworth, and Sonja Christopher - all of whom confirmed the absence of producer influence over any participant vote. The other Tagi members who voted Stillman off the island all attributed their votes to personal dislike for Stillman and to their own personal strategies.

As the Los Angeles Superior Court noted last week, testimony in sworn declarations from Mark Burnett, Sean Kenniff, and the other participants contradict Stillman's allegations.

Looking back on his experience as a "Survivor" participant, Been testified that he would do it all again if given the chance. Been also had glowing things to say about the show, Mark Burnett, and his experience on "Survivor": "The Lord used you Mark Burnett to bless me with this awesome experience. I wish that there is some way I could repay you for all you have done for me."

(© 2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)