ABC's dating shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" were hit today with a class-action lawsuit filed by two Nashville men who said the show has intentionally discriminated against minorities by not including them on the two series.
The suit was filed in federal court in Nashville by two African American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, who said they were not given the same consideration as white candidates when they tried out to be contestants during a regional casting call.
"This is a case about equal opportunity," said Cyrus Mehri, co-counsel of Mehri & Skalet, which is representing the plaintiffs. "It's about putting everyone on equal footing. We're not saying that these two men should definitely have been selected. This is saying that they should have been given the same level of consideration as white applicants."
Among the defendants named in the suit are American Broadcast Cos. Inc., Warner Horizon Televsion and Mike Fleiss, executive producer of the two shows. ABC and the producers have declined to comment on the suit.
The lawsuit contends that the two reality shows, over the course of 20 years and a combined 23 seasons, have never featured a person of color in the central role of "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette."
In the lawsuit, Claybrooks is identified as a small-business owner and investor, while Johnson is identified as an athlete trying out as an NFL wide receiver.
In 2011, said the suit, Claybrooks went to the Indigo Hotel, where producers were holding a casting call for "The Bachelor." He maintained that his on-camera interview was much shorter than the ones for white applicants and that he was not given the same opportunity as his white counterparts.
The suit said Johnson went to a Nashville hotel for a "Bachelor" casting call but was not allowed to proceed past the lobby after he handed in his appplication. He was passed by white applicants who were ushered through the lobby by officials.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages. "But basically, this is about the need for reform," said Mehri.
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Photo: Christopher Johnson, left, and Nathaniel Claybrooks answer questions at a news conference on their lawsuit charging "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" with racial discrimination. Credit: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press.