Tensions were high during an ABC panel during the Television Critics Association's winter 2024 press tour, during which all three showrunners were asked about the racial issues often present in unscripted television.
“Bachelor” executive producers Jason Ehrlich, Claire Freeland and Bennett Graebner seemed caught off guard when NPR reporter Eric Deggans addressed several controversies surrounding the franchise's treatment of black actors, saying, “During Matt's season James, you had a controversy that led to Chris Harrison leaving the show. Matt was a little critical of the way you presented his father. Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, criticized the way the show discusses race.
“Why does it seem like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” have such a hard time dealing with racial issues? » asked Deggans. “Have you learned anything from these past scandals that led to Chris Harrison's departure?
“I can talk about where we are right now,” Freeland said after a long pause. “Our goal is to represent the social fabric of the country, not only in terms of diversity and ethnicity, but also in terms of abilities and body types, as well as representing where people come from in the country.”
“I can talk about the seasons I've been a part of,” continued Freeland, who joined the U.S. iterations of the franchise in 2023 after previously working on the Canadian series “Bachelor.” “I think so far we have walked our talk. This is something we are still working on and will continue to do so in the future. »
Deggans pushed back on Freeland’s focus on the present: “That doesn’t really answer the question. Why has 'The Bachelor' struggled to address race, especially when Black people are the star of the show?
Freeland did not answer; nor Ehrlich and Graebner, who have worked on the Bachelor franchise since 2004 and 2008, respectively.
After another long pause, Deggans spoke again: “I guess we have our answer. »