The Bachelor franchise has a new scandal on its hands.
Two African American men who auditioned to star in ABC's smash reality show have brought a class action lawsuit against the series -- and its spin-off The Bachelorette -- alleging that the programs intentionally exclude contestants of color.
In their filing, Nashville residents Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson argue that in the combined 23 seasons the two programs have aired, a person of color has never appeared in the title role. Both Claybrooks and Johnson auditioned separately to be the next Bachelor in 2011, a role that ultimately went to Ben Flajnik, who is white.
"All applicants of color, including plaintiffs Claybrooks and Johnson, have been denied the same opportunity as their white counterparts to compete for the role of the Bachelor and Bachelorette due to their race and/or color," reads the complaint obtained by Us Weekly. The shows' creator, Mike Fleiss, is among those named in the suit brought by Claybrooks and Johnson.
Last year, Fleiss -- who also executive produces the franchise -- spoke to Entertainment Weekly about whether the show would ever feature a contestant who was not Caucasian.
"I think Ashley [Hebert, the 2011 Bachelorette] is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion!" he said. "We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would."
The network's next Bachelorette, Emily Maynard, begins her search for love May 14.