Lee Garrett is a 30-year-old singer/songwriter from Nashville, one of 31 men cast to date Rachel Lindsay, the current star of ABC’s “The Bachelorette” (and the first black lead the franchise has ever featured). He admires Matthew McConaughey, has a horseshoe tattoo on his left arm, and loves “Gone with the Wind.” Oh... and he once tweeted that the only difference between the NAACP and KKK is that “one has the sense of shame to cover their racist ass faces.”
A simple scan of Garrett’s Twitter feed suggests that he has some strong and predominantly negative feelings about women (”Guys... When is the last time YOU actually saw a pretty feminist?”), black-led organizations (”Thousands sign petition to recognize
#blackLivesMatter as terrorist group after Dallas”), Islam (”I don’t hate Muslims, I do hate Islam”) and the LGBTQ community (”After all this ‘gay community’ talk, all these rainbow flags instead of American flags”). He has also expressed a fervent support for President Trump.
Below is a sampling of tweets from Garrett’s feed, none of which have been deleted as of Wednesday morning:
This raises the question: Why would ABC cast a man who does not seem to think highly of women or people of color to date a beloved lead who is both? Did the casting people simply not look at his Twitter feed? Or did they want to use Garrett’s racial biases to drum up drama among the most racially diverse cast in “Bachelorette” history?
HuffPost reached out to ABC, but the network declined to comment.
The choice to cast a white contestant to date a black lead, when said contestant seems to harbor some racist resentment towards black people, eerily mirrors a plotline in “UnREAL” ― a show co-created by a former producer of “The Bachelor” that fictionalizes the behind-the-scenes drama of a very “Bachelor”-like dating show.
The Lifetime show’s second season, which aired last summer, followed the casting of the first black male lead (called a suitor) of “UnREAL’s” dating show within a show, “Everlasting.” On night one, one of the contestants, Alabama girl Beth Ann, shows up in her own Confederate flag bikini ― at the urging of producers, naturally. The goal is to provoke a “catfight” between the racist white contestant and the black contestants.
On “UnREAL,” Beth Ann functions as a naive pawn rather than being actively malicious, with producers pitting her ignorant embrace of so-called “Southern pride” against the just horror of the suitor, Darius, and the black women cast to date him. The showrunners sought out and played up a racial conflict in order to gin up drama, at the expense of their cast ― particularly Darius, who is then pressured to keep Beth Ann on the show.
Casting Garrett looks to be a move from the same playbook, but instead of a fragile-seeming young moron, they’ve cast a 30-year-old man who unapologetically details his racist opinions on social media.
Without access to the men’s backgrounds, or a computer to Google them, “Bachelorette” leads rely on the producers to background check and winnow the dating field for them. It’s understood that some clowns will be included for TV’s sake, but casting a man who openly professes bigoted views toward the lead’s race and gender falls into a different category: It sets the Bachelorette up for humiliation, heartbreak, and a deep sense of betrayal when the truth comes to light. And that’s just the best-case scenario.
For more on “The Bachelorette,” check out HuffPost’s Here To Make Friends podcast.