'Survivor' Lunch Lady Turns Down $50,000

TVWeek's James Hibberd: Rated

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"Survivor" fourth-place finisher Denise Martin said she will turn down executive producer Mark Burnett's offer of $50,000 after being caught in a lie during the finale's live reunion show Sunday night.

Martin (oft-billed on "Survivor" as "The Lunch Lady") claimed she lost her Douglas, Mass., public school cafeteria job because her boss said she became too distracting to the students after her stint on the popular CBS reality show. Martin added she was now working as a janitor instead.

She told her tale on the CBS reunion show after the two-hour "Survivor" finale. Before getting voted out, Martin pleaded with rivals not to send her home, claiming she earned only $7 an hour. Another contestant cruelly bashed Martin during the episode for her economic status, saying she "sucks at life." After Martin then revealed her apparent demotion to cleaning toilets on the air, "Survivor" host Jeff Probst declared that Burnett will give Martin $50,000—lending her story a happy ending.

But Douglas Schools Superintendent Nancy Lane disputed Martin's account the next day, saying she had requested the higher-paying janitorial work (at $17 an hour) and actually started her new position before leaving to film the show. In an interview on CBS' "The Early Show," Martin accepted Ms. Lane's version of events and apologized.

Late Tuesday, Martin released a statement through CBS: "I would like to apologize to Mark Burnett, Jeff Probst, CBS, Nancy Lane, the town of Douglas and my friends and family. It was not my intention to mislead anyone. I take full responsibility for my actions and hope that you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. I do not feel comfortable about accepting the $50,000. I would instead ask that it be donated to the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Please accept my apology. I would also like to thank all the people who have supported me through this experience."

Notice Martin's apology doesn't let Burnett off the hook for coughing up 50 grand. A spot for Martin on the upcoming "fans vs. favorites" season of "Survivor"? Unlikely.

Below is the clip of Martin talking about her "demotion" to janitor during the "Survivor" reunion show.

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