A federal judge in Nashville has dismissed the discrimination lawsuit filed against ABC and its shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, ruling the First Amendment protects the producers’ casting decisions.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger granted ABC’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed in April by Nashville natives, and Bachelor tryouts, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, who claimed that as African-Americans they had not been given a fair chance to participate on the show.
In their suit, Claybrooks and Johnson pointed out that aside from their own unsuccessful 2011 tryouts to be on the show, no “person of color” had participated in any significant role in any of the now two dozen combined seasons of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.
The two men had also alleged that producers of the show intentionally avoided selecting persons of color to further avoid a possible interracial couple at the end of one of the two shows.
Trauger said it was “laudable” that the plaintiff’s sought “to support the social acceptance of interracial relationships, to eradicate outdated racial taboos, and to encourage television networks not to perpetuate outdated racial stereotypes.”
But, the judge stated, the First Amendment stood in the way of Claybrooks and Johnson’s attempt to affect or control the message or content of the shows. The producers alone have control over the shows’ content.
In her ruling, which can be read here, Trauger said the case presents “potential tension” between the federal government’s interest in “preventing racial discrimination in the formation of contracts … and the federal constitutional First Amendment right to freedom of speech.”
Trauger stated, “With respect to casting decisions for an entertainment program of any kind, it appears that no federal court has addressed the relationship between anti-discrimination laws and the First Amendment.”
She later added, “Ultimately, whatever messages The Bachelor and The Bachelorette communicate or are intended to communicate — whether explicitly, implicitly, intentionally, or otherwise — the First Amendment protects the right of the producers of these Shows to craft and control those messages, based on whatever considerations the producers wish to take into account.”
A spokesman from Warner Bros., however, provided the following statement on behalf of ABC: “We felt from the outset this case was completely without merit and we are pleased the Court has found in our favor.”
Attorneys for Claybrooks and Johnson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
|Trauger ABC suit memo.pdf||178.82 KB|