FORTY-THREE minutes into his “special live edition” with Charlie Sheen on Monday night, Piers Morgan finally got around to asking his guest a real question. Before that, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Sheen had mostly traded chuckles and anecdotes about multiday benders, inflated network salaries and meet-ups in Aspen, Colo. But then, after three commercial breaks, Mr. Morgan inquired, “Have you ever hit a woman?”
Two minutes later, with Mr. Morgan apparently satisfied with the actor’s answer that no, women should be “hugged and caressed,” that line of questioning was over.
That Mr. Morgan didn’t press the issue of domestic violence shouldn’t have come as any surprise. CBS executives, not to mention the millions of viewers of his “family” sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” have consistently turned a blind eye toward Mr. Sheen’s history of abusing women. Part of this, of course, is about money. The actor’s F-18 of an id — to borrow a metaphor from Mr. Sheen himself — had long provided the show a steady stream of free publicity. It also helped make Mr. Sheen the highest-paid actor on television, at $1.2 million an episode.
But it’s also about apathy. Even now — after Mr. Sheen began carpet-bombing his bosses in radio rants, prompting CBS to shut down production on the show — observers still seem more entertained than outraged, tuning in to see him appear on every talk show on the planet and coming up with creative Internet memes based on his most colorful statements. And while his self-abuses are endlessly discussed, his abuse of women is barely broached.
Our inertia is not for lack of evidence. In 1990, he accidentally shot his fiancée at the time, the actress Kelly Preston, in the arm. (The engagement ended soon after.) In 1994 he was sued by a college student who alleged that he struck her in the head after she declined to have sex with him. (The case was settled out of court.) Two years later, a sex film actress, Brittany Ashland, said she had been thrown to the floor of Mr. Sheen’s Los Angeles house during a fight. (He pleaded no contest and paid a fine.)
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