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Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis Could Have Just Said Nothing

A friend to one is not a friend to all.

Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Danny Masterson smile in a photo from the year 2000.

Years before they got married, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis were both on the popular sitcom That ’70s Show. Another castmate, Danny Masterson, has just been sentenced to 30 years in prison for raping two women. Kutcher and Kunis could have chosen to just sit this one out and say nothing. Instead, the two chose to write in support of Masterson ahead of his sentencing.

In addition to That ’70s Show, which ran from 1998 to 2006, Masterson also starred alongside Kutcher in The Ranch but was (eventually) written out of the show after the first allegations of sexual assault surfaced in 2017. In 2020, he faced his first legal challenges as he was formally charged with three counts of rape for incidents that took place between 2001 and 2003. While his 2022 court case ended in a mistrial, he was found guilty of two counts of rape in his second case earlier this year. That verdict and the subsequent sentencing were surprising to many since we’ve all seen countless men face no real consequences for similar crimes. And to have someone of Masterson’s fame—not to mention the backing of the extremely powerful Church of Scientology—found guilty is even more rare. 

Kutcher and Kunis are very good friends of Masterson’s. Kutcher has called Masterson “one of [his] dearest friends,” which isn’t surprising, given just how long their shared sitcom ran. I am sure those cast members became very tight. Back in January of this year, Kutcher spoke to Esquire and said that he had hoped his friend would be found “innocent.” Now to be fair, this didn’t mean that he wanted him to get away with his crimes. Instead, Kutcher stressed that he meant he didn’t want the charges to be true because they were so close.

With these latest letters, though, Kutcher and Kunis knew Masterson had been found guilty. These letters were meant to ask for leniency in sentencing. A part of Kutcher’s letter to Judge Charlaine Olmedo—which was obtained by journalist Tony Ortega—reads, “While I’m aware that the judgement has been cast as guilty on two counts of rape by force and the victims have a great desire for justice, I hope that my testament to his character is taken into consideration in sentencing.”

I understand wanting to defend your friend’s “character” but a person’s character as seen by their friends is not applicable to the crimes someone has been convicted of! People do not sexually abuse everyone they come in contact with. An actor could be a friend, a good castmate, an amazing father or brother, and also a rapist. It is unnerving to hear people use this as some sort of defense.

Kutcher went on to write, “I do not believe he is an ongoing harm to society and having his daughter raised without a present father would [be] a tertiary injustice in and of itself.” First, how does he know he isn’t a harm to society? Tell that to the women he raped. And second, I do feel bad for his daughter. It is not her fault that her father will be taken away from her. But we’re also not going to use a little girl as a shield against other women seeking justice for crimes committed against them.

Kunis also wrote to the judge. Some of her letter reads, “I wholeheartedly vouch for Danny Masterson’s exceptional character and the tremendous positive influence he has had on me and the people around him.” Weird, enacting violence doesn’t seem positive. But I get what she is saying in the sense that I am sure most of the people in his life had had a positive experience with and around him—especially those with similar status and power.

Ultimately, there is no way to defend Masterson’s character in this context without diminishing or contradicting his victims. Both of these actors’ letters focus heavily on Masterson’s aversion to drugs and his “positive influence” in keeping them away from drug use in Hollywood. That seems irrelevant—until you remember that these women’s testimonies centered on assertions that Masterson drugged them before assaulting them. There seems little reason to lay in so heavily to Masterson’s dislike of drugs except to cast doubt on the women’s experiences.

No matter what, Masterson may have been a creep at a minimum, and for a while. In a clip that has resurfaced online following Masterson’s sentencing, the actor had a revealing exchange on Late Night With Conan O’Brien back in 2004. He and O’Brien were discussing Masterson’s accent coming and going. He mentioned how one of his fellow actor friends teases him, saying ‘Hi, my name is Danny Masterson, would you like to touch my balls?” with a heavy New York accent on just the last word. What a weird example to bring up as a thing you’re known for saying!

Conan seems to clock this as strange and he quietly “jokes,” as if to himself, “I’ve heard about you .. and you’ll be caught soon, I know you will.” It appears that Masterson always had weird vibes. 

(featured image: Chris Weeks/Liaison)

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