Nathaniel Claybrooks, 39, and Christopher Johnson, 26, of Nashville, Tennessee -- onetime Bachelor hopefuls who are black -- claim they met with discriminatory treatment at their auditions.
Both men auditioned to be the next Bachelor in 2011 and lost out to California winemaker Ben Flajnik, who was the runner up on the seventh season of The Bachelorette. Flajnik was one of four former Bachelorette rejectees brought back to star as The Bachelor. Both Claybrooks and Johnson charge they were not given a fair shot during the abbreviated audition process.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Johnson claimed he was approached by a white employee of the show in the lobby of a hotel where auditions were being held. He alleges that the employee asked him what he was doing there. When Johnson told him he was auditioning for The Bachelor, the employee offered to take his application materials to the casting directors. No one else was stopped, the lawsuit claims. Johnson was never given any further instructions, and left the hotel shortly after.
As Mr. Johnson handed the white employee his application materials, he noticed several other persons who appeared to be hopeful Bachelor applicants walking past him and the white employee and proceeding into the hotel, the lawsuit states. None of the other potential applicants was stopped by any of the Defendants' employees.
Claybrooks got a bit further during his own audition, according to the lawsuit. He was taken to a room with other Bachelor hopefuls who were waiting to do a video interview portion of the audition. But Claybrooks, speaking at a press conference, claimed he wasn't given as much time as his white counterparts, who he said got about 45 minutes. Claybrooks said he was very upset by the rushed process, although the claim does not specify how much time he was given.
Neither man heard back regarding the status of their applications.
Warner Horizon Television responded to the complaint in an emailed statement, calling it 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, the company wrote. As always, we continue to seek out participants of color for both 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette.'
The news of the lawsuit comes shortly after Lamar Hurd, a former basketball player-turned-sports broadcaster with rock-hard abs and a philanthropic record, created a buzz with his efforts to become the first black Bachelor. Hurd admitted in a promotional video that he initially resisted the idea, partially because there hadn't been a black one before.
If this all worked out and I actually got selected to be the bachelor, I'm going to have a good time with it, Hurd said in the video.
Complaints about a lack of diversity on the popular reality romance series is nothing new. The Bachelor, which just celebrated its ten-year anniversary, has had 15 bachelors in its 16 seasons (one, Brad Womack, appeared twice) and not one of them was a member of a minority group. All of the stars on The Bachelorette were former Bachelor contestants. Ali Fedotowsky, the star of the sixth season of The Bachelorette, chose Roberto Martinez, who is Hispanic, at the end. They have since broken up.
The shows' creator, Mike Fleiss, addressed the lack of diversity in a 2011 interview with Entertainment Weekly.
I think Ashley is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm , he told EW, referring to Ashley Hebert, the seventh Bachelorette. 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.
Fans like Tierra Nicole Butler, a 22-year-old student getting her doctor of pharmacy degree, would certainly love to see some more diversity on both shows.
Though I enjoy watching the series as is, I'd really love to see someone that looks like me on TV, Butler wrote in an email. With all the negative connotations [and] stereotypes of absentee fathers or this recent fascination about why Black women will never get married, I'd be ecstatic to see a Black man or woman find love [and] be portrayed in a positive light on national TV.