Meredith Baxter Alleges Ex-Husband David Birney Abused Her

Actress Meredith Baxter says she's a lesbian, kept orientation secret for years.

ByABC News
December 2, 2009, 10:58 AM

March 1, 2011 — -- Meredith Baxter says in a new book, "Untitled," that she was a victim of emotional and physical abuse.

Baxter, the actress best known for playing hippie mom Elyse Keaton on the 1980s sitcom "Family Ties," said that the abuser was her then-husband David Birney, who has denied the allegations.

In her memoir, Baxter alleges that Birney hit her more than once. "It was so sudden and unexpected, I couldn't tell you which hand hit me, or even how hard," she writes. "I do recall thinking, 'I'd better not get up because he's going to hit me again.' "

She writes that she coped with the marital violence by drinking heavily, but has been sober since 1990.

Birney was her former co-star on the television show, "Bridget Loves Bernie," which ran from 1972-73. The couple dated for two years, marrying for 15 years and having three children together. They divorced in 1989.

Birney, 71, has denied all allegations, according to the NBC interview. was unable to reach the actor for comment.


The 63-year-old Baxter discussed her relationship on NBC's "Today" show. She made headlines on the show last year, when she revealed she was a lesbian.

Baxter, who has been divorced three times, said it took her years to change her "victim" mentality. She described herself as "mousey, quiet and retiring" -- the classic match for a dominating husband.

"What I got out of it eventually was I had to change my thinking," Baxter said. "I had to look, if I did not want to be a victim -- and I'd been committed to being a victim for a long time because it felt really warm and comfortable and familiar -- but it was a disastrous position to be in. So I had to change my thinking. I had to look at, what was my part? What was in my thinking that told me it was okay to be in this relationship?"

When asked why she stayed with Birney so long, she said, "That's what everyone would want to know. I didn't know I had a choice. I didn't know I could go.

"It wasn't an accident that we were together," Baxter said. "He's not going to pick someone who's on top of themselves and confident and aggressive, no, he needs to pick someone for him to be who he needed to be, it needed to be someone who was mousy and quiet and retiring, and that's what I was."