Tensions were high on an ABC panel at the Television Critics Association’s winter 2024 press tour, during which the three showrunners were asked about the racial issues often present in unscripted television.
“Bachelor” executive producers Jason Ehrlich, Claire Freeland and Bennett Graebner appeared caught off guard when NPR journalist Eric Deggans brought up multiple controversies surrounding the treatment of the franchise’s Black cast members, saying, “During Matt James’ season, you had a controversy that led to Chris Harrison leaving the show. Matt was a little critical of how you presented his father. Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, has been critical of how the show talks about race.”
“Why does it seem that ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette’ have such a hard time dealing with racial issues?” Deggans asked. “Have you learned anything from these past scandals that led to the departure of Chris Harrison?”
“I can speak to where we are now,” Freeland said after a long pause. “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 can speak for the seasons that I have been on,” continued Freeland, who joined the American iterations of the franchise in 2023 after previously working on the Canadian “Bachelor” series. “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 pushed back on Freeland’s focus on the present: “That doesn’t really answer the question. Why has ‘The Bachelor’ struggled to deal with race, particularly when Black people are the star of the show?”
Freeland didn’t answer; nor did 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.”