Controversies are nothing new for Big Brother. Since the show’s U.S. debut in 2000, the reality series has made headlines for an array of topics. With each season, the disputes behind the scenes only grow.
Over the past 20 years, the show has been criticized for racism and discrimination, specifically beginning with an incident that occurred in season 15. In 2013, Aaryn Gries referred to Asian people as “squinty-eyed,” called her Black roommate Candice Stewart “Aunt Jemima” and asked her Korean houseguest, Helen Kim, to “go make some rice.”
GinaMarie Zimmerman and Spencer Clawson were also accused of insensitive comments during the season, so much so that host Julie Chen spoke about it on The Talk.
“It stung,” the host said at the time. “I took it personally. The really sad part was it took me back to the ’70s when I was growing up in Queens, when I was 7, being bullied and being called a chink … the year is 2013! Then I felt ignorant. There are still people who feel that way? Yes, there is.”
However, claims of discrimination only continued. Moments before being crowned the season 21 winner in 2019, Jackson Michie was shocked when Chen informed him that his houseguests had expressed concerns about his behavior, making choices based on race or age — something he adamantly denied.
Additionally, season 21 contestant Kemi Fakunle spoke out, revealing she was “disgusted” about what was happening inside the Big Brother house, seemingly alluding to aggressive comments made by Jack Matthews during the live feeds.
“The audience is able to view the show during the multiple weekly broadcasts as well as on the 24/7 live, online stream, which captures unedited content of the contestants’ unfiltered moments in the house,” the network and the show’s producers said in a statement in July 2019. “At times, the houseguests say things that we do not condone. We share some of the viewers’ concerns about inappropriate behavior and offensive comments, and producers have addressed specific incidents with the houseguests involved. However, there is absolutely no truth that the casting of the show is racially motivated, that the houseguests’ behavior is predetermined or that the outcome is controlled in any way.”
Scroll through the gallery below for some of the biggest controversies from the show.