Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have come under fierce criticism for an apology video they released on social media.
The couple, who have been married for eight years, took to Instagram to apologise for their letters asking a judge for leniency for their That 70’s Show co-star Danny Masterson, who has been convicted of rape.
A Los Angeles judge sentenced Masterson to 30 years to life in prison for raping two women in 2003.
The Instagram apology has been decried by celebrities and fans alike, with Kutcher and Kunis being accused of ‘discrediting’ Masterson’s victims.
Here’s everything you need to know about this ongoing story…
Who is Danny Masterson?
Danny Masterson, 47, is an American actor who rose to prominence on sitcom That 70’s Show. Also a prominent Scientologist, Masterson starred in shows such as The Ranch, Men At Work, and the film The Bridge To Nowhere.
On Thursday, 7th September, he was convicted of two out of three counts of rape during the height of his fame, and sentenced to 30 years to life in prison. It is the maximum penalty issued for these crimes.
Masterson’s victims testified that he drugged them before he carried out his assaults.
How does he know Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis?
Masterson met Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis on That 70s Show, which aired on Fox from 1998 to 2006. Masterson played Steven Hyde, while Kutcher played Michael Kelso and Kunis played Jackie Burkhart.
What did Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis say in their letters to the judge?
Both Kutcher and Kunis wrote letters to Superior Court Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo to ask for leniency towards Masterson.
Kutcher, who founded an anti-human trafficking organisation, wrote: “I attribute not falling into the typical Hollywood life of drugs directly to Danny. Any time that we were to meet someone or interact with someone who was on drugs, or did drugs, he made it clear that that wouldn’t be a good person to be friends with.”
He added he believed Masterson was a “role model” with “exceptional character”.
Kunis compared Masterson as an “older brother figure”.
“His dedication to avoiding all substances has inspired not only me but also countless others in our circle,” she wrote. “Danny’s steadfastness in promoting a drug-free lifestyle has been a guiding light in my journey through the entertainment world and has helped me prioritise my well-being and focus on making responsible choices.”
Other people who worked with Masterson on That 70’s Show - Kurtwood Smith, Debra Rupp and David Trainer – also wrote letters of support for Masterson.
Kutcher and Kunis’s letters of support were published on The Hollywood Reporter and other websites.
What was the initial response?
Poor. A quick backlash ensued, with people describing the letters as ‘disgusting’, ‘baffling’ and ‘a trainwreck’.
One of the main criticisms the couple faced was why they wrote the letters in the first place.
“If literally any man I know was convicted of rape and I was asked to write a letter supporting sentencing leniency, I would simply say no,” said one observer on X (formerly Twitter).
“Ashton and Mila are telling on themselves so hard with that ‘but what if it was your friend’ justification,” wrote a second. “If my friend raped two women, he wouldn’t be my friend anymore, it’s so simple.”
Others were quick to point out that just because an offender could show positive qualities to one person, it doesn’t make the horrors of their crimes any less real.
“This is all because this convicted rapist is their friend, not a bad guy like the other rapists,” said one sarcastic observer.
“The two faces of a predator,” added a second. “It’s unfortunate that Ashton and Mila were unwilling to consider the ‘truth’ presented by the victims.”
“Ashton literally does work on human trafficking,” said a third. “What about the victim, Ashton and Mila?”
Kutcher launched Thorn in 2009 with then-wife Demi Moore, which aims to address sexual exploitation and trafficking. As of 2019, Thorn had raised $27 million (£21,574,620). Kunis has also worked extensively with the charity. In addition to this philanthropic work, Kunis starred in Luckiest Girl Alive, a Netflix film about rape and sexual assault. Kunis played rape survivor Ani.
What did Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis say in their apology video?
Shortly after their letters were made public, Kutcher and Kunis posted a short video to Kutcher’s five million Instagram followers.
In the clip, the pair apologised for any pain they may have caused with the letters, which were not intended for public consumption.
Kutcher said the letters were “not to undermine the testimony of the victims or retraumatise them in any way. We would never want to do that, and we’re sorry if that has taken place.”
Kunis added: “Our heart goes out to every single person who’s ever been a victim of sexual assault, sexual abuse, or rape.”
What was the reaction to their video?
Again, the video was poorly received. While Kutcher turned off comments on the original Instagram post, people took to other platforms to vent their frustrations.
“Ashton and Mila made a point in that video to say the letters were never intended to be made public. Had they remained private, they would’ve been all too happy to send them,” wrote one person.
“Masterson can be and do all of these things and STILL be a rapist deserving of punishment. It’s people like Ashton and Mila that perpetuate the idea that rapists are always creeps hiding in alleys when in reality, they’re usually ‘good’ people in positions of power,” said a second.
“Ashton and Mila can take their fake ass apology and shove it. 'We support victims' unless they were raped by your buddy, right?” wrote a third.
“People we know as ‘awesome guys’ can be predators and abusers. It’s tough to accept but we have to. If we say we support victims — women, children, men, boys — then we must be able to take this stance,” Ricci wrote on Instagram.
“Unfortunately, I’ve known lots of ‘awesome guys’ who were lovely to me who have been proven to be abusers privately. I’ve also had personal experience with this. Believe victims. It’s not easy to come forward. It’s not easy to get a conviction.”
Meanwhile, one of the women Masterson was convicted of raping took to X (formerly known as Twitter) to criticise the video.
In a text message shared by journalist Yashar Ali, the unnamed woman wrote: “This video was incredibly insulting and hurtful. My hope is that they learn radical accountability and the importance of self-education to learn when to keep their privilege in check—especially Ashton, who claims to work with victims of sex crimes.”
The message also referenced Kunis’s work with Time’s Up, a non-profit organisation that raises money to support victims of sexual harassment.
Chrissie Bixler, a woman who also testified against Masterdon during the trial but has waived her right to anonymity, has also spoken out.
She shared a series of videos on her Instagram stories sharing historical interviews of Kutcher and Masterdon.
Bixler also shared a photo of the scales of justice saying she had her first night of peaceful sleep in years. In the caption of the photo, she addressed other survivors directly.
“I hope you’re all experiencing justice and I pray deep healing for us all,” she wrote. “Danny Masterson will never harm another woman for as long as he shall live.”
Behind the attention Kunis and Kutcher’s apology video may have captured, it can be easier to forget the stories behind the victims who bravely testified in court. They are the people who should be in our thoughts.
If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues raised in this piece, go to the Rape Crisis website or call 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland.
You Might Also Like