The Bachelor EPs Freeze Up When Pressed on History of Racial Issues

When it comes to The Bachelor’s shaky history with race, the franchise’s producers still don’t have a great answer.

In an uncomfortable moment during ABC’s panel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Saturday, NPR journalist Eric Deggans asked Bachelor executive producers Jason Ehrlich, Claire Freeland and Bennett Graebner about the controversies surrounding race that have faced the shows in recent years: “Why does it seem that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have such a hard time dealing with racial issues?” He added: “Have you learned anything from these past scandals that led to the departure of Chris Harrison?”

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The Bachelor Racial Issues Controversy ABC Producers
Graebner, Freeland and Ehrlich (back row, from left) on the TCA stageCourtesy of ABC

Freeland, who joined the U.S. version of The Bachelor just last year, attempted a response after a long pause: “I can speak to where we are now. Our goal is to represent the fabric of the country, not just in terms of diversity and ethnicity, but also ability and body types and representing where people are from in the country as well… I think, so far, we’ve been putting our money where our mouth is. This is something that we’re always working on, and we’ll continue to do so moving forward.”

Deggans pressed further, though, and directly asked: “Why has The Bachelor struggled to deal with race, particularly when Black people are the star of the show?” The three producers then fell silent, and Deggans finally broke the silence by saying: “I guess we have our answer.”

The Bachelor franchise has often been criticized over the years for its mishandling of racial issues, including not casting a person of color as the star of one of its series until 2017, when Rachel Lindsay was picked to lead The Bachelorette. Lindsay later slammed the franchise for “systemic problems” and then cut ties with it entirely. Matt James, the first Black lead of The Bachelor, gave his final rose to Rachael Kirkconnell, but controversy swirled when photos of Kirkconnell at an antebellum party surfaced online — and when longtime Bachelor host Harrison defended Kirkconnell, he faced strong backlash that led to him stepping down as host in 2021.

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