Judge sides with ABC over "The Bachelor" discrimination suit on First Amendment grounds
There's no telling how far Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson would have gotten on ABC's reality dating show "The Bachelor," but one thing's for certain — they got voted out of the court system pretty early.
Would-be "Bachelor" contestants Claybrooks and Johnson suffered legal defeat in U.S. District Court in Tennessee Monday, when Judge Aleta A. Trauger dismissed the pair's suit.
Claybrooks and Johnson, who are both African-Americans, unsuccessfully applied to appear on "The Bachelor" in 2011 and subsequently claimed racial discrimination, noting that, in the 24 cumulative episodes of "The Bachelor" and its spinoff, "The Bachelorette," there has never been a Bachelor (e.g., Matt Grant, pictured) or Bachelorette of color, and the vast majority of suitors on the show have been white.
The defendants claimed that the series intentionally cast only white Bachelors and Bachelorettes, and that the producers have feared "potential controversy stemming from an interracial romance."
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In a motion to dismiss, ABC and the other defendants, including Warner Horizon Television, presented a First Amendment argument, as well as invoking the "void-for-vagueness" doctrine.
Judge Trauger found merit in the First Amendment argument, writing in her opinion, "the court finds that the casting decisions are part and parcel of the creative process behind a television program — including the Shows at issue here — thereby meriting First Amendment protection against the application of anti-discriminating statutes to that process."
In their motion to dismiss, ABC and the other defendants argued that subjecting casting to anti-discrimination laws would have a wide-ranging impact for many television outlets.
"For example, the legality of any network targeting particular demographic groups would be called into question, including, inter alia, the Lifetime Network (targeted to female audiences), the Black Entertainment Channel (targeted to African-Americans), Telemundo (targeted to Latinos), the Jewish Channel, the Christian Broadcast Channel, the Inspiration Network (targeted to Protestants) and LOGO (targeted to gays and lesbians)," the judge's opinion reads. "Similarly, the content of any television show that does not have a sufficiently diverse cast would be or would have been subject to court scrutiny.
Judge Trauger sided with ABC, et al, on the First Amendment argument.
"We felt from the outset this case was completely without merit and we are pleased the Court has found in our favor," a spokesman for WB Entertainment told TheWrap.
ABC has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.
"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."
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.