Court Rules ‘Bachelor’/’Bachelorette” Casting Directors Free to Give Roses to Applicants of Their Choosing

A Tennessee federal judge dismissed a race bias class action against ABC Inc. and the producer of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” determining that the show’s casting decisions are “part and parcel of the creative process behind a television program” and therefore protected by the First Amendment.

Individuals Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson filed the suit in April, alleging that ABC intentionally excluded minorities from the hit reality series, thereby perpetuating “outdated racial taboos.” Although “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” have aired for a combined total of 23 seasons, no minority has ever starred on the programs.

The complaint suggests that “[t]he exclusion of people of color from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette sends the message — to whites and racial minorities —that only all-white relationships are worthy of national attention.”

According to the show’s producer, the shows attempted to cast diversely, but had difficulty finding applicants. He is quoted as saying to Entertainment Weekly: “I think Ashley (the 2011 Bachelorette) 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.”

Johnson claims he applied for “The Bachelor” in 2011. He attended a casting call at a hotel in Nashville,Tennessee. After turning his paperwork in to an employee, he never heard from the show again.

Claybrooks also applied to a casting call at a hotel in Nashville. He secured an interview, but claims it was much shorter than the interviews given to white applicants.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger dismissed the case with prejudice, reasoning: “The producers of a television program, a movie, or a play could not effectuate their creative vision, as embodied in the end product marketed to the public, without signing cast members. The plaintiffs seek to drive an artificial wedge between casting decisions and the end product, which itself is indisputably protected as speech by the First Amendment. Thus, regulating the casting process necessarily regulates the end product. In this respect, casting and the resulting work of entertainment are inseparable and must both be protected to ensure that the producers’ freedom of speech is not abridged.”

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