Three “Big Brother” contestants are at the center of a brewing controversy over offensive comments they made during continuous live feeds of the voyeuristic reality show on CBS.com. At least one of the cast mates, 22-year-old Texas State University student Aaryn Gries, has been fired from an unrelated modeling job for remarks she made on the reality show. Gries' firing comes just one week after beleaguered celebrity chef Paula Deen lost several partnerships because of racist comments she made in a leaked deposition.
According to TMZ, Gries' firing came after she used several racist and homophobic slurs in conversations with two other cast mates, GinaMarie and Kaitlin. Gries reportedly made derogatory comments about multiple houseguests, telling an Asian American contestant to “shut up and go make some rice” and referring to a black cast member by saying, “Be careful what you say in the dark; you might not be able to see that b----.” Gries also described a gay contestant as a “queer.”
Shortly after Gries’ comments aired on the 24-hour live stream, outraged viewers organized a petition to get the contestant booted from the show. On Monday, Ed King of West Hollywood submitted a petition on Change.org, and by Wednesday he had gathered more than 3,000 signatures. Several petitioners used the page as a forum to air their grievances about Gries’ presence on the show.
“I am an African-American woman and I find Aaryn's display of racism deplorable. I have watched every single season of 'Big Brother' and I am disappointed that this type of behavior has been allowed in the House,” commenter Toinette Hill from Orange, Texas, wrote.
A Canadian viewer added that Gries’ remarks had discouraged her from wanting to visit the United States. “People who produce and air TV shows for anyone to see have a responsibility to respect diversity especially when viewers are diverse [sic],” Selina Swampillai wrote. “The type of racist comments make me cringe and are in no way entertaining. It makes me not want to visit the states that these contestants live in.”
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CBS released a statement to Entertainment Weekly shortly after the comments were made, saying the network did not condone Gries’ behavior. The network did not say whether it would pull the comments from the footage when it airs on TV, as one former cast mate urged them to do. “Big Brother is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 — and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone,” CBS said.
“We certainly find the statements made by several of the Houseguests on the live Internet feed to be offensive,” the network added. “Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on Big Brother, either on any live feed from the House or during the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.”
Ragan Fox, a former cast member, urged CBS to air the comments in an open letter on his blog, saying that offering viewers the chance to hear the unfiltered comments could actually break ground. “Big Brother, I LOVE you, but, if you really want to provide a groundbreaking twist, SHOW CBS VIEWERS HOW SOME STRAIGHT, WHITE PEOPLE talk about gays, Asian Americans and African Americans,” Fox wrote.
Zephyr Talent, the modeling agency that represented Gries, said it dropped the reality star over her comments. "Aaryn, season 15 cast member of Big Brother, revealed prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone,” the agency said in a statement. "We certainly find the statements made by Aaryn on the live Internet feed to be offensive. Upon much consideration, we have decided to release Aaryn from her contract with Zephyr Talent."