Is 'The Bachelor' Racist ABC Sued for Discrimination

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 plaintiffsBlack football players Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnsonsay is intentional.

ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, one ofDiversityInc’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 consistentlyand publiclyvocal 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 Case3:12-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 RicanI’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 abachelor 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 haveto wedge African-American chicks in there!We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it’s just thatfor whatever reason, theydon’t come forward. I wishthey 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 TheBachelor … 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 demographicsand expectationsamong 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.

Latest News

Novartis Chief Medical Officer John Tsai on Balancing Medical Innovations With Patient Needs

Originally published at novartis.com by Elizabeth Dougherty. John Tsai is Novartis’ Head of Global Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer. Novartis Pharmaceuticals is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.   John Tsai’s career as a physician, and now as Head of Global Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer for Novartis, had an unlikely…

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed

City of Montgomery, Alabama Faces $25,000 State Fine for Changing Street Named After a Confederate Leader

Despite a state law designed to “protect” longstanding Confederate monuments and memorials, the city of Montgomery, Alabama, has decided that it would rather incur a fine than continue going on with a city street named after President of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865, Jefferson Davis. Kim Chandler of…

Global Diversity

Despite Massive Uptick in Global DEI Initiatives, New Study Reveals Real Change in Corporate Workforces Remains Slow 

Even though DEI as a business imperative continues to grow both in the United States and around the world, a new study has found that many business leaders and executives have merely raised awareness of why diversity, equity and inclusion is important — as opposed to actually making meaningful progress…

Novartis Collaborates With Microsoft To Innovate Medicine Through Data and Artificial Intelligence

Originally published on LinkedIn. Novartis Pharmaceuticals is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.   “We are not just discoverers. We actually create molecules that have never been made before.” Says Karin Briner, Head of Global Discovery Chemistry at Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR). By collaborating with Microsoft and augmenting the expertise of our…

Mastercard Announces Launch of Crescent City Card Program in Partnership With New Orleans and MoCaFi

Originally published at mastercard.com. Mastercard ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell was joined by executives from Mastercard, Mobility Capital Finance, Inc. (MoCaFi), and Forward Together New Orleans to announce the Crescent City Card Program. The program involves a…

Mastercard on Supporting Inclusive and Sustainable Urban Development by Expanding Its ‘City Possible’ Network

Originally published at mastercard.com. Mastercard ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   Mastercard has continued to expand its support for addressing urban challenges and inequalities, working with city leaders and partners around the world, through the City Possible™ network and capabilities. The unique solutions…

Rep. Ilhan Omar

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert Makes Anti-Muslim Comments Against Fellow Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota

Following the horrific example of Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who posted an animated video depicting the killing of his congressional colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another member of the House of Representatives has made a similarly vile attack on a co-worker based purely on her religious beliefs. James Anderson of the…

Pinterest app

Pinterest Enacting New Company-Wide DEI Initiatives Following Gender and Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Following a lawsuit led by the General Treasurer of Rhode Island, social media company Pinterest has announced that it will be enacting a series of new diversity, equity and inclusion workplace reforms to settle a recent lawsuit against them. Patrick Anderson of The Providence Journal reported that “the reforms are…