“The Bachelor” Creator Mike Fleiss Left The Series After A Racial Discrimination Investigation Into Him
We all know The Bachelor, but you may not know the creator of the show Mike Fleiss unless you read Dlisted and remember that time his wife got a restraining order against him and accused him of assault but later reunited with him. Mess. But mess seems to follow Mike, as he revealed this week that he would be leaving The Bachelor after 21 years. He made the exit sound chipper and amicable but it sounds like the opposite is true. It turns out there was a racial discrimination investigation into Mike, and the result was: Mike Begone!
The Bachelor and its spin-offs, The Bachelorette and Bachelor In Paradise, have been criticized for their lack of diversity for years. The first Black lead was Rachel Lindsay in 2017, and since then, there have been only two other female leads of color, with a fourth just cast as the next Bachelorette (Charity Lawson). There’s been only one Black Bachelor, Matt James in 2021. That season turned out to be a racist disaster that ended with longtime host Chris Harrison leaving the show after defending the winning contestant’s racist past. The show then hired its first Black executive, Jodi Baskerville, in 2021–after she worked on the show for a decade. Hmm, wonder why the sudden promotion? Welp, apparently, this lack of diversity may have had something to do with Mike being accused of bullying people who tried to get him to diversify the franchise more.
Mike’s first announcement is what you’d expect from someone who was leaving on friendly terms. via Variety:
“First and foremost, congratulations are in order for Zach and Kaity. I wish them a long and happy life together… 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.”
But Variety spoke with a bunch of sources who say Mike’s exit shocked his co-workers, who didn’t even know about it until moments before his announcement. Variety also learned of the racial discrimination allegations against Mike and reached out to Warner Bros. TV and ABC, but both declined to comment. Anonymous sources are talking, though!
But a handful of individuals familiar with the situation tell Variety that a number of employees had complained to human resources about Fleiss, which led to a thorough investigation that was conducted by an outside party in the past few months. Those who spoke during the investigation include current producers on the show, as well as former production staffers. Some of these individuals were prominent producers within the franchise, which also includes The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise. The investigation resulted in Fleiss’ departure.
During the investigation, sources say, producers complained about Fleiss’ “bullying” behavior, as well as his resistance to increasing diversity on the show over two decades. Individuals who spoke during the investigation expressed that when production staffers suggested casting more diverse reality stars, Fleiss would not take their suggestions and would “lash out” against them. The individuals, who spoke anonymously with Variety, said that throughout the investigation, a common theme that repeatedly came up was that the fight for change was a source of frustration for many staff members.
“People said he would retaliate against people for having minorities and Black people on the show. He favored certain people over other people,” says an individual familiar with the investigation. “He would say, “Minorities don’t get ratings.””
Mike gave Variety a statement about the allegations, and he said a lot of words but didn’t deny the claims:
“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.”
Mike is going to have absolutely no involvement with the series from now on, but he’ll still be credited as the franchise creator. His contract with Warner expired near the end of last year–which is when the investigation started–and sources say that he was in discussions for another deal with ABC, but those convos are done now.
But hey, not all sources are anti-Mike. Two people tell Variety that he was never discriminatory or mean to them but added that he can get “heated” because he’s “passionate” about the show. And one of the sources reminds us that he just hired a Black woman executive (after a decade of her working there).
“Mike does get heated in creative discussions,” the producer continues. “But it’s because he’s passionate about the show and constantly wanting what’s best for our audience. I’ve been with him for 22 years. If anyone is saying he’s a bully, it’s just because he’s passionate about the show. I’ve never witnessed him bully another person.”
This producer notes that Fleiss promoted Baskerville to executive producer in 2021, which came as the franchise was navigating a race scandal that eventually resulted in the exit of longtime host, Chris Harrison. “Mike was instrumental in promoting an African American woman into the executive producer position. To me, there is proof that he was trying to diversity our show.”
Time for ABC to call up their Queen of Daytime, Kelly Ripa, and have her do some more The Bachelor damage control. She owes them since that time she shit on one of the network’s most successful franchises, so she better be ready to smile and pretend The Bachelor is inclusive now!