The Bachelorette’s Big, Ugly Casting Problem

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Photo: Paul Hebert/ABC via Getty Images

Finding true love is hard. Almost as hard as getting cast on The Bachelor, which guarantees if not a soul mate, then at least a few paychecks for hawking FabFitFun boxes on Instagram. But a shocking pair of recent revelations — that current Bachelorette Becca Kufrin’s pool of suitors includes both a sex offender and a bigot — has made it painfully apparent that the long-running reality series’ casting processes are in desperate need of an overhaul.

Last week, news broke that contestant Lincoln Adim was convicted in May of indecent assault and battery. (He committed the crimes in 2016, as first reported by Reality Steve.) Several weeks earlier, Bachelorette fans learned that contestant Garrett Yrigoyen had “liked” a series of fat-shaming, transphobic, and hateful conspiracy memes on Instagram. Both of these men should have been disqualified long before they stepped out of their limos on night one, leading Bachelor Nation to wonder what level of scrutiny their applications faced.

How do you make it on to The Bachelor or Bachelorette, anyway? It’s far more involved than having an impeccably symmetrical face and being named Lauren, although both of those factors help. If you’re applying by mail, you’ll need to submit “anywhere from five to 15” recent photos and, ideally, a 10- to 15-minute video of yourself. (“We want lots of energy and BIG SMILES!!!” read the taping instructions.) Aspiring contestants who choose to attend an open call typically wait in line for hours, perhaps in a hotel, a shopping center, or in ABC Studios in Manhattan. You’ll complete a wide-ranging application, for which you may be provided with a souvenir Bachelor pen. After describing your dream partner, favorite drink, and three surprising adjectives that apply to yourself, you can expect to furnish information about your relationship history, occupation and salary, highest level of education, height and weight, previous reality-show auditions, kids (if you’ve got them), tattoos (if you’ve got them), bankruptcy filings, criminal record, and any temporary restraining orders. The truncated online application includes “optional” fields for Facebook and Instagram handles.

In-person hopefuls also pose for several pictures from different angles (Bachelor auditionee and Bustle reporter Anna Klassen likened these photos, for which she held a whiteboard with her name and number written on it, to “mug shots”), and sit for a brief, on-camera interview during which a producer will review questions from their completed questionnaires. Per the franchise’s eligibility requirements, all applicants must authorize producers to conduct a background check, including, potentially, “a credit check, a military records check, a criminal arrest and/or conviction check, a civil litigation check, a family court litigation check, interviews with employers, neighbors, teachers, etc.”

Semifinalists must travel to Los Angeles for additional interviews, where the vetting process becomes considerably more intense. In a blog post about his experience, one-time Bachelor applicant Kevin Murray recalled receiving a manila folder “filled with about 600 true-or-false and Likert scale questionnaires.” Per Amy Kaufman’s Bachelor Nation, completed personality tests are reviewed in an hour-long session with a psychologist, covering any history of mental illness, infidelity, and other invasive subjects. Applicants even sit down with a private investigator “trained to dig up any skeletons in [their] closet,” Kaufman writes, in part to determine if they have any DUIs or sex tapes to their name that could provide future tabloid fodder. Semifinalists must also submit to a medical examination and supply a medical history. Blood and urine samples are required, to be tested both for drugs and sexually transmitted diseases. (STDs are an instant disqualification and, according to Kaufman, the “top reason” applicants are eliminated from the running.)

But despite all that scrutiny and all those barriers to entry, The Bachelorette nevertheless missed big red flags. Garrett Yrigoyen’s unsavory social-media activity became mainstream news when screenshots thereof were tweeted by former Bachelor contestant Ashley Spivey, who says she heard rumors about “something being up with” Yrigoyen in the Bachelor subreddit, where she serves a moderator. Then, the anonymous Instagram account @imwatchingyuuo sent Spivey more than 50 screenshots via direct message. Spivey confirmed with friends who followed Yrigoyen that he had indeed liked these posts before sharing the images publicly. (Yrigoyen has since issued an apology.)

“All I could think was, people have a right to know. If people don’t agree with him liking the post, or if they don’t want to support a person who has those sorts of ideals, they can make that decision for themselves now,” Spivey tells Vulture.

Spivey identifies “hating liberals” as a consistent theme throughout Yrigoyen’s liked posts. “That set off an alarm bell to me, because I felt like we were getting our first openly liberal Bachelorette,” she said. “It does seem weird that he would even want to go on the show for Becca. She dislikes Trump so much, she’s a feminist, she loves Joe Biden.”

Spivey also speculated that Yrigoyen may have been cast with another potential Bachelorette in mind, possibly Arkansas native Tia Booth, who competed alongside Kufrin on the previous season of The Bachelor. “Nowhere in the [casting] process does anyone ask you what your political views are,” she said. “That’s the thing I can’t get out of my mind as a viewer: I have a hard time even thinking this person could fall in love with Becca. I wish I didn’t have to say that.”

Although social-media scandals were hardly at the forefront of production concerns when The Bachelor premiered in 2002, there’s a very recent precedent for taking them seriously. When contestant Lee Garrett appeared on Rachel Lindsay’s Bachelorette season in 2017, it was quickly discovered that he had posted racist and sexist tweets on his public Twitter account. His casting was a particularly noxious oversight given that Lee’s primary story line — on what was the first season to star a Bachelorette of color — involved inciting a racially charged feud with fellow contestant Kenny King, who is black.

But was it an oversight? According to Bachelorette host Chris Harrison, “none of us” had seen Lee’s offensive posts, meaning the purportedly rigorous casting process left producers oblivious to Lee’s openly prejudiced, easily Googled beliefs. The alternative would hardly reflect better, of course. If producers cast him with full awareness of his tweets, as Jay Willis wrote in GQ, “it’s a despicable choice that demeans everyone involved: Rachel, to whom they’ve promised the chance to find her future husband out of a group of well-intentioned, vetted, presumably safe men they’ve hand-picked just for her; and the viewers at home.” Last August, as Lindsay’s season drew to a close, ABC executive Rob Mills committed to doing better in an interview with Variety. “Now we’ve realized that we’ll look at social media accounts and look through carefully,” he said. “Going forward, we’ll be looking at all of that, in addition to the background checks, which of course give you criminal records and all of that.”

With Bachelorette contestant Lincoln Adim’s conviction, it’s not just the relatively new frontier of social media on which the Bachelor and Bachelorette casting teams have recently faltered. Twitter posts and Instagram likes, odious as they may be, pale in comparison to real-life violence. Last week, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that Adim was found guilty of groping and assaulting a woman on a harbor cruise in 2016. After his conviction in May, Adim was sentenced to “one year in a house of correction, with that term suspended for a two-year probationary period.”

Warner Bros. released the following statement about Adim, who has not yet been eliminated from The Bachelorette: “No one on The Bachelorette production had any knowledge about the incident or charges when Lincoln Adim was cast, and he himself denied ever having engaged in or having been charged with any sexual misconduct. We employ a well-respected and highly experienced third party who has done thousands of background checks consistent with industry standards to do a nationwide background check in this case. The report we received did not reference any incident or charge relating to the recent conviction — or any other charges relating to sexual misconduct. We are currently investigating why the report did not contain this information, which we will share when we have it.”

Though Adim may very well have lied to producers, it is both egregious and baffling that his sexual-misconduct arrest went overlooked behind the scenes. Spivey, who contributed to Reality Steve’s reporting, said that she is “horrified” Adim was cast.

“I just find it very hard to believe that a well-respected and a well-paid third party that was hired by the show to do background checks couldn’t do a better job than a nanny who had an hour to spare,” she said. “It is unacceptable that they aren’t taking bigger strides to prevent casting racists, bigots, and now sexual offenders.”

The Bachelorette’s Big, Ugly Casting Problem