Potshots Mark Renewed Work on 'Women' : Fall episodes: Sitcom producers fire new salvos in rebuttal to charges by actress Delta Burke.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Today was the first day of production for this season's "Designing Women" episodes but there were no signs that the war of words is abating between producers of the CBS sitcom and actress Delta Burke.

In the latest barrage, executive producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason released 12 pages of rebuttal that contained comments from crew members, network executives and even Burke's co-star, Dixie Carter.

The producers, stating through a publicist that their reputation was being impugned, had sought out the comments to back up their claims of Burke's behavior on the set, which the actress has denied.

Burke said last week the Thomasons falsely told the press that she was suspended from the series last fall, but Jill Bowman, CBS's director of current programming, said in the statement that Burke was suspended for a week on Oct. 19.

Bowman said that CBS and Columbia Pictures Television, which funds the series, agreed with the action "in the hope that Delta would realize that a problem existed with her professional conduct at work." Further, Bowman said that the producers "insisted" that the actress continue to receive her salary.

Burke's publicist said the actress would have no immediate statement.

The cast was assembled late this morning for the usual read-through of the week's script, which then begins rehearsals for filming on Thursday night.

The show's publicist said the reading was professional and without incident.

Burke has been nominated for an Emmy for her role as the sassy ex-beauty queen Suzanne Sugarbaker, the only one of the four lead actresses to be nominated. The verbal barrage began two weeks ago when Burke told the TV critic of the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel that she hasn't wanted to be on the show "for some time" because of the way she was being treated.

Last week, the Thomasons issued a counterstatement about her supposedly unprofessional behavior and Burke responded.

In today's statement released by the Thomasons, most of the comments from crew members dealt with specifics of alleged tardiness and productions delays caused by Burke.

In her statement, co-star Dixie Carter, who plays Suzanne's sister, didn't comment specifically on Burke except, "I deplore any turn of events that brings her (Bloodworth-Thomason) embarrassment or pain. She does not deserve this; people should be praising Linda now."

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