CBS on Tuesday filed a $5 million countersuit against former Survivor castaway Stacey Stillman, claiming the San Francisco lawyer is guilty of breach of contract, extortion and defamation.
Stillman, the third contestant booted from last year's Survivor, sued CBS and executive producer Mark Burnett two weeks ago, essentially claiming the show was rigged. But by doing so, CBS now claims Stillman broke her confidentiality agreement with the network, which states that contestants can be held liable for $5 million in damages if they reveal inside information about the show.
CBS' suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, contends Stillman benefited enormously from the series, including appearances on a San Francisco TV station and a commercial for Survivor sponsor Reebok.
But Stillman filed suit against the network February 5, setting off a wave of national publicity that CBS claims included "defamatory and/or disparaging statements" about the show.
Stillman tells E! Online she's undeterred by CBS' lawsuit.
"They're trying to smear me however they can, and they're reaching," she said Tuesday. "They've threatened me with this before, and it's not going to deter me. I'm confident that, when this goes to court, I'll win."
In an official statement left on her answering machine, Stillman added: "I would never have come forward and invested this time and energy if I did not know for a fact that Mark Burnett manipulated my exit from the show. Knowing this, I had to come forward, and Mark's $5 million lawsuit is a blatant attempt to scare me away. I still stand by my claims, and the witnesses are ready to testify."
Stillman filed her complaint against CBS and Burnett February 5 in San Francisco County Superior Court, claiming the executive producer helped arrange her exit and "orchestrated" the show's outcome. Stillman, 28, claims Burnett convinced contestants Sean Kenniff and Dirk Been to vote her off instead of irascible 72-year-old retired Navy SEAL Rudy Boesch--presumably out of fear that the show would kick off all of its older contestants too early.
Kenniff has denied that Burnett influenced his vote, while Been told The New York Times, "Burnett himself doesn't call it reality TV. He calls it reality drama. You can take what you want from that."
CBS, meanwhile, claims Stillman also tried to extort more money from the network last August, prior to Survivor's reunion special, and again in January, when the network said she "expressly threatened to generate national publicity about her false allegations unless she was paid off."
Network sources claimed Stillman asked for a $5 million settlement. According to CBS' suit, Stillman "specifically threatened [the show] and others that she would broadly publicize her false accusations...unless she was given millions of dollars and/or other benefits far beyond what she ever could have received even if she had been the grand prize winner on Survivor."
Last summer, Stillman tried to organize her fellow castaways into asking for more money from CBS when it planned a live reunion show following the Survivor finale. CBS claims that, in an email to tribemates, Stillman wrote, "What are you thinking in terms of how much to extort? I'm thinking one-third of the ad revenue from the town hall show plus a party afterwards plus travel and accommodations for one guest for each of us?"
Allegations of potential tribe tampering--and Stacey's own efforts to rally the troops for more money--first surfaced in The Stingray, an unauthorized book about the show by Survivor sleuth and L.A.-based author Peter Lance.
Lance's book portrays Stillman's efforts as an attempt to get her fellow castaways some of the revenue being made from the reunion special. "I figured, let's take one of those $12 million [in ad revenue] and divide it up 16 ways," she reportedly told Lance.
Stillman would not comment on Lance's book, but she denies she's guilty of extortion as CBS claims.
"[CBS] was anti-unionization from the start," says Stillman. "They advertised the 16 of us at a reunion show before they even asked us. So a group of us decided to ask for some money...and in a joking email I used the word 'extort,' now they're trying to turn it around.
"If they want to talk about frivolous lawsuits," she added, "they can look to themselves."