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CBS defends handling of ‘Big Brother’ house guests’ racist, anti-gay remarks

Monday, July 29, 2013

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The “social experiment” that is CBS’ “Big Brother” included appalling behavior this season but the network has responded appropriately, CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves said Monday.

Contestants have been caught on the reality show’s 24-hour-a-day Internet feed making boorish and racially insensitive remarks, and some were aired on one of the show’s TV episodes.

Sonja Flemming, CBS/AP
“Big Brother” house guest Aaryn Gries.

Monty Brinton, CBS/AP
CBS President and Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves.

“What you see there … unfortunately is reflective of how certain people feel in America. It’s what our show is. I think we’ve handled it properly,” Moonves told the Television Critics Association.

The executive has a unique connection to the series: His wife, Julie Chen, is the host, and Moonves said he makes a point of watching each episode. The network responded when racially oriented comments became an issue with the contestants, he said.

In the online feed, contestant GinaMarie Zimmerman, 32, of Staten Island, N.Y., used the N-word to describe welfare as “insurance” for black people.

Another incident involving Zimmerman was part of the TV show. In an exchange with contestant Aaryn Gries of San Angelo, Texas, Zimmerman said a black house member is “on the dark side, but she’s already dark.” Gries responded, “Be careful what you say in the dark because you might not be able to see the bitch.”

A network disclaimer that was shown on screen read, in part, “At times, the Houseguests may reveal prejudices and other beliefs that CBS does not condone” and which do not represent the network’s views or opinions.

The remarks clearly disturbed other contestants on the show. Howard Overby, a youth counselor who is black, said he resisted expressing anger for fear it could hurt his chances in the game.

Broadcast’s infatuation with the reality genre, which is both popular and can be cheaper to produce than scripted series, has made it an entrenched part of network schedules. But its pitfalls can include the conte stants and their on- or off-screen behavior.

At the dawn of the reality cycle, Fox’s “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire” drew scrutiny in 2000 over the financial and personal credentials of its centerpiece, Rick Rockwell. “American Idol” has jettisoned contestants who failed to disclose arrest records or have other issues.

Some critics have questioned how real much of reality TV is, given factors including casting and editing that are part of the quest for ratings.

“Big Brother,” which gathers contestants in a house to live under the gaze of cameras as they compete to be the last one left, was established as a social experiment when it began airing, and “clearly that’s what’s happening this year,” Moonves said. The series, which debuted in 2000, is based on a Dutch show.

While he finds some of the behavior “absolutely appalling,” Moonves said, “it’s what our show is.”

He was asked if what happened might be the result of the network trying t oo hard to find outgoing, eccentric contestants for shows like “Big Brother” and “Survivor.”

“Obviously, you don’t want wallflowers on reality shows. You’re going to take people that are interesting. … Sometimes that leads to controversy,” he said.

Referring to the original season of “Survivor,” he recalled the casting of Richard Hatch, who is gay, and Rudy Boesch, an older man who “wasn’t used to dealing with homosexuals at all.”

“Now, these two guys became good friends on the island, and so they are social experiments. Trying too hard? I don’t think there’s any such thing,” Moonves said.

He made an unexpected appearance at the Television Critics Association’s summer meeting in place of CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler, who was unable to attend because she was attending a friend’s funeral.

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19 more reader comments:

  1. boooooooooooooooooo cbs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:19am
  2. So handling the situation means putting up a disclaimer and continuing to allow someone to be actively racist on national television. Gotcha!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:20am
  3. the show is crap. the people are crap. boycott Big Brother and CBS.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:26am
  4. Big Brother is so 2000: doesn´t CBS have something better or fresher to air than this pre-Recession “reality” crap?

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:27am
  5. this is why I stopped watching 6 seasons ago

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:41am
  6. lol her modeling agency dropped her and zimmmerman has lost her job….talk about damage control.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:43am
  7. Time for a houseguest to pack her bags.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 1:56am
  8. Bye bye bigot!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 2:09am
  9. You´re still watching?

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 3:06am
  10. What message does it send if they were to outright remove her??? In a country where we are deemed to have free speech is she not entitled to her opinion no matter how much I nor you think it is wrong? Her OPINION in no way harms another individual and actually does more good than harm…Think about it slightly differently for a moment…Big Brother is deemed a reality show…The reality of the world we live in is that behind closed doors THESE are the comments still being made daily in most parts of the country…This actually has shined a light on the problem that many like to pretend no longer exist…While I in no way condone her actions I also refuse to take on the same closeminded standpoint by doing the same backwards logic…

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 3:38am
  11. To be fair I´m going to hold contempt of this show and these girls regardless of how they handle it

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 4:57am
  12. Idiots, the whole lot of them!

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 5:04am
  13. WHY is this still on TV?

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 5:10am
  14. It sucks bc not everyone from Staten Island is like that.. I am gay and proud and I grew up in Staten Island.. Unfortunately, there are plenty of morons who live there..

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 5:31am
  15. Awful show. Awful remark. But anyone who thinks they handled it poorly doesn´t get the point of the show.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 5:35am
  16. I´m honestly not surprised. CBS did kill off “Partners” last year.

    Free speech or not though – it does not give you the total right to be a bigot.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 6:14am
  17. I like the show “Two and a Half Men” but sometimes they use that lame “That´s so Gay” line. I really don´t like that. If they are referring to Ptown or a rainbow flag or a pink triangle, it´s OK. To use it as a put down…not OK at all.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 8:20am
  18. Here´s is the thing is what some of these people in this house saying Wrong? YES!! should cbs still show this YES!!! People need to learn from their own ignorance so hopefully some of these people will when they receive the back lash from what they have said or even see themselves on tv after the fact! KEEP SHOWING IT! People will LEARN! and those that don´t learn F OFF nobody has the time for stupidity.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 12:51pm
  19. Stupid people are Reality show fodder . . . stop watching stupid television people.

    Posted on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 7:47pm