By Derek Lawrence
March 29, 2018 at 05:08 PM EDT
Stephen Lovekin/REX/Shutterstock; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

UPDATE: EyeCon has since responded to Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton’s criticism with a tweet signed by promoter Kenny Smith. “I’ve gone ahead and changed the colors back to our standard convention colors on the site,” he wrote. “This is to alleviate any tensions about us trying to capitalize on a tragedy. Of course we’re not, but it may have been insensitive on my part to make the abuse a ‘theme’ of the convention. The wounds are still too fresh for many and me, always trying to help as best I can whenever friends are in trouble, may have accidentally brushed those wounds. I apologize intently for that to whomever has been harmed. I had the best intentions…. I, and my staff, are on the side of the abused and that’s not just rhetoric, we really mean it.”

Read the full statement below:

EARLIER: Sophia Bush is fiercely defending her “sister” Hilarie Burton amid criticism over her refusal to take part in a One Tree Hill convention due to a planned “women’s empowerment” theme.

The conversation began on Twitter with a user asking Burton if she would be going to EyeCon in October. “I will not be attending any Eyecon events,” she replied. “Ever. I personally feel exploited by their ‘girl power’ angle, which exists at the expense of some of us who went through a difficult time on that show. They’re using our sisterhood as a sales gimmick. No thanks.”

Last November, Burton and Bush were among 18 One Tree Hill cast and crew members to accuse creator Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment and physical and emotional manipulation during the show’s run. Burton soon detailed further sexual assault allegations against Schwahn (who has yet to comment on the matter).

Considering the news, EyeCon had made plans to hold a “women’s empowerment” panel at an upcoming convention. And when Burton tweeted about her issues with that, the convention replied, “Being a company made up of mostly women we have experiences of our own. She doesn’t know us, and she doesn’t know that some of our staff has had experiences too, it is unfair of her to judge our stories as unworthy before we can even tell them.” A follow-up tweet added, “If we were money hungry we wouldn’t be doing conventions at all.”

Later, EyeCon wrote, “We aren’t taking advantage. We have our own personal reasons for wanting to do this convention. Bringing us all together in one place. We think that’s beautiful. We see it different.”

The whole exchange led Bush to post a long, passionate defense of Burton, as well as rip the “exploitative” panel, which she says none of them were asked to be a part of before it was announced:

Burton was very appreciative of her former costar’s support, responding, “@SophiaBush is a WOMAN. My woman. I love her so hard. She is the kindest and most generous and supremely honest. Thanks for always being my ride or die, sis.” Bush replied, “I love love love you, mama. No one will ever crack the sisterhood. This is OUR family.”

Representatives for Bush, Burton, and EyeCon did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.

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