ABC says allegations that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are racist are “demonstrably false and unsupportable.” In a motion filed yesterday (read it here) seeking dismissal of the April 18 lawsuit against the shows, their producers and the network, ABC said the lawsuit “violates the First Amendment, which protects Defendants’ creative choices concerning the content — including the casting — of the television series that they produce and broadcast to the public.” The network goes on to cite legal precedent to say “it is well settled that ‘[e]ntertainment, as well as political and ideological speech, is protected’ fully by the First Amendment.” Back in April, football players Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson filed a class-action lawsuit against the reality shows for racial discrimination. The suit stated that over the course of both series a person of color has never been the finalist or the one picking their potential mate on the shows. The duo, both African-Americans who unsuccessfully auditioned to be on The Bachelor, named ABC, Bachelor executive producer and Bachelorette creator Michael Fleiss, Warner Horizon Television, Next Entertainment, and NZK Productions as defendants.
In its 25-page motion yesterday, ABC also named shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family and the now-ended Desperate Housewives as proof the network is committed to diversity in its programming. The network said Claybrooks and Johnson’s suit “is about Plaintiffs’ attempt to communicate their preferred message to the public by controlling the content and casting of Defendants’ television series.” ABC said that it shared Claybrooks and Johnson’s desire to reduce bias and prejudice but “allowing litigants to petition courts to control the editorial message of television programming would call into question the legality of a host of networks targeting a specific demographic or audience.” Claybrooks and Johnson are represented by Nashville firms Barrett Johnston, Mehri & Skalet and Perkins-Law. LA’s Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp and Nashville’s Miller & Martin PLLC represent ABC.