Earlier this week, Mike Fleiss departed the franchise he created more than two decades ago.
At the time, he released an upbeat statement that referenced the latest season of The Bachelor.
“First and foremost, congratulations are in order for Zach and Kaity. I wish them a long and happy life together,” he said upon announcing his sudden departure.
“I want to thank WBTV and ABC for 21 extraordinary years. They’ve found the perfect creative team for me to entrust The Bachelor franchise and keep this lightning in a bottle bold and moving forward. Let the journey continue.”
The journey forward will, indeed, continue.
But Variety now reports that Fleiss was essentially forced out of his role due to allegations of racial discrimination and a related investigation that was ordered by Warner Bros. over the last few months.
According to this outlet, current producers and former staffers have issued a number of complaints to human resources over the years.
This investigation revealed accusations against Fleiss of “bullying” behavior, as well as a resistance to increasing diversity across the franchise over the past 20-plus years.
Back in July 2020, a petition circulated around the Internet that urged ABC to add people of color to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
About a month later, a Black contestant named Mike Johnson ripped the franchise for its atrocious record in this area.
This is not exactly a new area of debate or controversy.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention that Fleiss allegedly played a key role in keeping The Bachelor and The Bachelorette extremely white.
“People said he would retaliate against people for having minorities and Black people on the show. He favored certain people over other people,” an individual familiar with the investigation tells Variety.
“He would say, ‘Minorities don’t get ratings.’”
Yikes, huh? If true, that is.
Asked for a comment on these accusations, Fless told Variety…
“I had no idea back in 2002 that we were building a pop culture juggernaut. It was a crazy idea then and sure as hell continues to roll — just look at every network and streamer that has ripped us off!
“Since its premiere 21 years ago, times have certainly changed and I’d have to say we didn’t keep up with the pace of those changes.
“I am proud of the work we’ve done over the past five years to make the show substantially more diverse, but I do believe I could have done more.
“Hopefully, the franchise will continue to move in the right direction.
“Judging by the number of staff weddings we’ve hosted at our home and the number of teary messages that blew up my phone when I announced I had turned in my final rose, I’m pretty sure I had more good days than bad, lifted more spirits than hurt feelings and leave the franchise in good hands, with more friends than foe.”
In 2019, Pregnant-wife-she-attacked-me/”>Fleiss was accused of assaulting his pregnant wife.
He will have zero involvement with the show going forward, Variety has learned, although he will continue to be credited on the franchise as its creator.
For the record, meanwhile, Charity Lawson has been named the next Bachelorette.
She will be the fourth person of color to anchor one of these two franchises.