CBS Responds as Big Brother Cast Is Accused of Racism, Bullying: 'We Share Some of the Concerns'
Some Big Brother fans have slammed houseguests on the 21st season of the hit CBS reality show for alleged racist remarks and behavior.
And on Thursday, CBS and the producers released a joint statement to PEOPLE addressing the backlash.
“BIG BROTHER is a multi-platform reality competition show about a group of people who live in a house for several months with no contact from the outside world. 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,” they said. “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.”
The show, which is best known for its plethora of twists and the tagline “expect the unexpected,” took heat from viewers on Twitter after three contestants of color were eliminated last week.
After David Alexander, Ovi Kabir, and Kemi Fakunle were evicted, fans called out the show for what they perceived as “racism” from the other contestants.
“CBS you have some explaining to do, this is terrible,” wrote one Twitter user.
Added another user, “The first 3 people voted out of Big Brother were people of color. This says so much about the show and society in general. The way some houseguests have acted towards these three has been vile. Let’s call it what it is, racism. #BB21.”
Several Twitter users specifically called out contestant Jack Matthews for his behavior toward Fakunle, 25. The two feuded throughout the season, and many fans felt that Matthews’ treatment of her was based on racial reasons. (The houseguests are cut off from the outside world while filming, so they can not be reached for comment.)
One unhappy fan even started a petition on Change.org to get Matthews, 28, expelled from the house. As of Wednesday evening, the petition has over 7,700 signatures, with a goal of 10,000 total.
On Twitter, other fans criticized the show for not airing the alleged racism and bullying. (People who subscribe to the Big Brother live feeds are able to see what’s happening in the house, 24/7, but CBS edits the footage down for time.)
In their exit interviews with Entertainment Weekly last week, contestants Alexander, Kabir and Fakunle were all asked if they believed they were evicted due to the color of their skin.
“Based on my awareness and reading people and seeing how Kemi and Ovi worked the social game, and based on me being banished and just losing the first comp, which felt like the lucky comp, I don’t think it was racial,” Alexander said. “I think the cards fell the way that they fell.”
Said Kabir of his experience in the house, “Bullying is such a strong word and it’s so hard to say ‘cause I was in that house and I don’t know the other conversations going on. But I’ve experienced isolation and things like that my whole life, and it made me uncomfortable.”
Fakunle said she didn’t feel included in the house.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” she told EW. “There was definitely an in-group vs. out-group feeling in the house and I mean, I really don’t know. I don’t want to say something without being certain about it, but we definitely felt a presence in the house that we weren’t a part of.”
After returning home following her eviction, Fakunle posted a tweet condemning the actions and comments made by her former housemates.
“I am extremely disappointed and disgusted by the behavior I am being made aware of that occurred thus far in the Big Brother house,” the marketing strategist wrote in the lengthy post. “The degrading and threatening comments made by some houseguests and laughed at by others are outrageous and hard to see. I am saddened to be associated with such a negative display of human character and am horrified that this is now a part of my life story.”
Added Fakunle, “It’s unfortunate how this season has transpired thus far and while I do appreciate the support, I do ask that the negative comments that have been made in my defense stop. I do not want to perpetuate the same negativity that I received in the house.”
Big Brother airs Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays on CBS.