Press Tour: CBS still haunted by ‘Big Brother’ racism

01.15.14 4 years ago 3 Comments


Poor Aaryn Gries. While every “Big Brother” contestant hopes to grab more than fifteen minutes of fame, Gries lives on as the big embarrassment of the series. Thanks to Gries’ bigoted comments last summer, President of CBS Entertainment Nina Tassler found herself peppered with questions about the former contestant (and, to a lesser extent, her equally tactless cast mates Spencer Clawson and GinaMarie Zimmerman). “I was mortified by the comments Erin made,” Tassler said. “It was this extraordinary confluence of events [with the death of Trayvon Martin] that were dominating the air waves.”

Still, Tassler isn’t promising this is the last we’ll see of racist comments on “Big Brother.” “We have to remind ourselves, it is a social experiment. You are taking people from disparate walks of life and confining them in a house…”

As far as how “Big Brother” handled the outbursts (while Gries and others were not censored during filming, host Julie Chen confronted Gries during her exit interview), Tassler said, “At the end of the day, we thought the producers handled it responsibly. Contestants go through a pretty aggressive process of screening.”

Though one journalist brought up the fact that many of the racist comments from cast members other than Gries did not make it to air, Tassler explained, “When conversation makes its way into story, then it makes it to air.”

When it was suggested that “Big Brother” might want to look for smarter or older contestants next season, Tassler sidestepped the idea. “I think you always try to look for a disparate group, where you will have conflict, alliances will form… It’s not a science. You go into every season hoping you make the right choices… but sometimes the way they behave in a one-on-one interview is very very different, and that’s why people watch the show.”

Do you think “Big Brother” needs to make some changes? 

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