NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed a case filed by two black men who claimed ABC's "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" discriminated against casting participants of color.
U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger's ruling states that casting decisions by the network and the series' producers are protected by the First Amendment and the case should not continue.
Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson sued the network in April, claiming their bids to appear on "The Bachelor" were never given serious consideration. They claimed the show and its spinoff "The Bachelorette" discriminated against nonwhite participants.
Trauger's ruling calls the plaintiffs' efforts "laudable" but says the lawsuit is aimed at regulating the show's content, which is forbidden under the First Amendment.
"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," Trauger wrote.
The Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC lauded the ruling, saying, "We felt from the onset this case was completely without merit and we are pleased the Court has found in our favor."
An email sent to attorney Byron Perkins, who represented Claybrooks and Johnson, was not immediately returned.
At the time of the lawsuit's filing, all of the men given star billing in the first 16 seasons of "The Bachelor" were white. Through seven seasons of "The Bachelorette," two male Hispanic contestants were selected winners and the rest were white.