Is 'The Bachelor' Racist? ABC Sued for Discrimination

A lawsuit claims that the reality show intentionally excluded Blacks from auditioning for the lead role. Could Lamar Hurd be the first Black "Bachelor"?

By Stacy Straczynski

It's the question that has landed the "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" and its TV network, ABC, in the middle of a racial-discrimination lawsuit, which is reportedly the first lawsuit filed against a reality show.

The case: After 10 years and a collective 23 seasons, neither "The Bachelor" nor "The Bachelorette" has yet to feature a Black, Latino or Asian person. Out of a collective total of 610 contestants, only 16 were Black; none were selected for the lead, according to an evening newscast by The Insider on April 18.

It's a misstep that the plaintiffs—Black football players Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson—say is intentional.

ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, one of DiversityInc's 25 Noteworthy Companies, declined to comment. "ABC does not comment on pending litigation," a company spokesperson said via email.

Warner Horizon Television gave the following statement: "This complaint is baseless and without merit. In fact, we have had various participants of color throughout the series' history, and the producers have been consistently—and publicly—vocal about seeking diverse candidates for both programs. As always, we continue to seek out participants of color for both 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette.'"

The Allegations

Both Claybrooks and Johnson, according to TMZ, say that they were treated differently than white contestants when they auditioned for "The Bachelor" at a casting call in Nashville this past August. Johnson says he was turned away and not allowed to audition at all, while Claybrooks says his audition time was cut notably short in comparison to other white contestants, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Both spoke about their experience in a press conference yesterday afternoon:

The two men filed Case 3:12-cv-00388 on April 18 in Nashville, Tenn., federal court. They are seeking a class-action lawsuit against ABC as well as the show's Executive Producer Mike Fleiss and its production companies, including Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment and NZK Productions.

Claybrooks and Johnson are represented by three firms: Barrett Johnston, Mehri & Skalet and Perkins-Law. They claim it's a violation of the 1866 Civil Rights Act. Mehri & Skalet, a class-action plaintiff law firm based in Washington, D.C., has a history in dealing with civil-rights cases. "Our firm is highly selective about which cases we bring. One factor is the impact a case can have on society outside of the company. Here,  this popular show reinforces stereotypes and creates a ripple effect of discrimination. With this case, our clients can have a small part on the journey for a more inclusive, more tolerant America," the lawyers said.

LaNease Adams, a Black woman who was chosen as one of the female contestants during the first season of "The Bachelor" and was one of the final eight women vying for the bachelor's heart, notes the lack of Blacks and Asians on the show. However, she paints a different view of the producers and says she never felt discriminated against. She describes her experience in an interview with The Insider below:

ABC had another issue last year, when the LGBT and Latino communities were angered over a show that only aired two episodes: 'I'm Puerto Rican—I'd Be Great at Selling Drugs' and 'Not Married? She Must Be a Lesbian'

Read more racial-discrimination lawsuits from legal expert Bob Gregg.

From 1/16 Cherokee to the First Black Bachelor

The allegations of racism on the show aren't new. The Huffington Post called out ABC for the shows' all-white casts in January 2010. Additionally, during an interview in March 2010, Entertainment Weekly asked Fleiss, "Will we ever see a bachelor or a bachelorette who is not white?" His reply: "I think Ashley is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would."

So far there are only a handful of social-media users commenting on the news, the majority of which do not seem shocked by the allegations. On tumblr, one user refers to Fleiss' explanation as "pathetic," while tweets trending on #Bachelor include "I guess a spray tan and the occasional Asian does not diversity make ..." and "I'd be shocked if they ever have a [B]lack man on The Bachelor ... and it would be forced." As of this morning, 13 comments and 50 "likes" were left in response to an article posted by The Root on its Facebook page, which calls attention to other TV networks that should be sued for a lack of diversity.

Additionally, a social-media campaign that has been lobbying for Lamar Hurd to become the first Black "Bachelor" (@1stblkbachelor) may finally have paid off. CBS Los Angeles reports that the show's producers are considering the Black sportscaster from Portland as their next pick. (Watch his audition video below.) One news source, Weekly World News, says ABC made the announcement yesterday months ahead of schedule, presumably in response to the lawsuit.

Diversity in Reality TV and Entertainment

Ethnic diversity, however, does not seem to be a challenge for the rest of the reality TV segment, which an LA Times article reports to be typically more diverse than scripted sitcoms and shows. The article references Black and Asian participants on shows such as "The Amazing Race," "Survivor" and "The Biggest Loser."

PopWatch notes "Dancing with the Stars" for its diverse casting. The show is also broadcast by ABC. Seven of this season's 12 dancing pairs have either Black or Latino representation: Super Bowl champion and Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver, Disney Channel's Roshon Fagan, Grammy winner Gladys Knight, Latin soap opera and VH1 actor William Levy, "TV Extra" host Maria Menounos, "The View" co-host Sherri Shepard and "Family Matters" actor Jaleel White.

Last year, GLAAD applauded the show for featuring its first transgender person, Chaz Bono, and gay stylist Carson Kressley.

So what happened with "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette"?

Lesson Learned?

The entertainment media is facing quick backlash on these issues on social media these days. Remember the recent racial controversy surrounding box-office hit "The Hunger Games" and its abundance of Black actors?

It calls attention to changing demographics—and expectations—among the American audience. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the white population is decreasing and projects that whites will make up less than half of the total population by 2050.

DiversityInc research and analysis illustrates companies' increasing emphasis on clarity of values in their messaging, branding and staffing.

Read these DiversityInc articles for more insight on how crucial diversity is to a business's connection to the marketplace:

Ask the White Guy: Decision Making, Clarity of Values & What to Do When It Goes Horribly Wrong

Are you violating your values? If you are, you can't hide from the repercussions.

Did Komen's Lack of Board Diversity Cause Its Crisis?

The nonprofit organization's board of directors is mostly Texan, homogeneous and wealthy. Here's how the lack of diversity fueled its misstep over funding to Planned Parenthood.

Diversity Web Seminar: Resource Groups

Innovative marketplace solutions from resource groups at American Express and Procter & Gamble provide best practices in using cultural competence to increase sales.

Diversity Training Goes Way Beyond Compliance

Our employment expert reveals how REAL diversity training can help keep your company from being sued for discrimination.

Do White Men Really Need Diversity Outreach?

How companies are showing white men what's in it for them.

Top 5 Ways to Use Your Resource Groups

Here's how more than 20 companies use their groups to find and develop talent and connect to customers/clients for business results.

Cross-Cultural Mentoring: How IBM, E&Y & Kraft Increase Diversity in Management

These companies' cutting-edge best practices can help create and manage a successful mentoring program.


Jury Awards $28M to Haitian-American Nurse Who Stood Up for Coworker

Brigham and Women's Hospital retaliated against a nurse for defending a coworker amid alleged verbal abuse.

Gessy Toussaint — who shares the name of the best-known leader of the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L'Ouverture — also believes in fighting against the odds and winning.

A Suffolk Superior Court jury ruled on Wednesday that Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass., retaliated against Toussaint, a Haitian-American nurse who stood up for a colleague, and has awarded her $28 million. Deliberation took more than three days.

Read More Show Less

Racist Train Rider Charged with Hate Crime for Rant at Black Woman: Video

"I'll smack the [expletive] out of you, you loud mouth monkey [expletive]," Edward Ruggiero said to Soraya Orelien.


Being a racist is ignorant and costly.

The Queens, N.Y., district attorney on Wednesday charged Edward Ruggiero, who was caught on video hurling racist insults at a Black woman on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), with a hate crime.

Read More Show Less

Why They Take a Knee — Parking Violation Results in Savage, Racist Cop Behavior: Video

"My experience in January with the Milwaukee Police Department was wrong and shouldn't happen to anybody," said NBA player Sterling Brown.

Milwaukee's school-to-prison pipeline for Black students is notoriously awful. In Milwaukee County, more than half of Black men in their thirties have served time in prison. The racism and racial profiling that perpetually exists in the city is again in the national spotlight as police used excessive force on a Black NBA player.

Read More Show Less

Twenty-one white people (including seven male board members and CEO Steve Simon) of a total of 22 people in the World Tennis Association's (WTA) management made the call to boot Serena Williams from seeding for the French Open for having a baby.

Read More Show Less

Be careful if you park under a tree in the warm weather — you might get accused of having marijuana in your car.

Read More Show Less

Vickers "Vic" Cunningham, a former Dallas judge who's running in the Republican primary runoff election for Dallas county commissioner on Tuesday, decided to provide his children a monetary incentive to condone homophobia and racism. Cunningham set up a living trust with a clause rewarding his children if they marry a white, straight Christian.

Read More Show Less

What On Earth Is Becky Afraid Of?

Student who brings assault rifle to campus gets no arrest, no police shooting thanks to white privilege.


If Kaitlin Bennett wasn't white, you'd be reading about a dead Black student.

Read More Show Less