CBS and producers of the show are currently enmeshed in a legal battle with Stacey Stillman, a contestant from the first edition of Survivor, who sued claiming the outcome was rigged. The network has denied the allegation and countersued.
The revelation about Survivor reenactments surfaced Monday when Burnett acknowledged the practice during a panel discussion at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York City.
The subject came up after the screening of an NBC News clip in which producers of another CBS "reality" show, Big Brother, staged and rehearsed an encounter between two contestants that purported to be spontaneous.
"I almost fell off my chair when I saw that," Burnett told Reuters. "We've never, ever staged any reality whatever. We've never asked a cast member to behave a certain way toward another, never ever, ever."
Not that Burnett has any moral qualms about staging "reality" shows, given that the settings and circumstances of the shows are "totally contrived" to begin with.
"I wasn't philosophically opposed to it," he said. "I just didn't think it worked."