7:00pm PT by Jackie Strause, Christina Schoellkopf
'The Bachelorette': Controversial Contestant Eliminated After "Race Card" Dispute
After several episodes of disputes between a white and black contestant on The Bachelorette, the tension finally simmered over Tuesday night when Lee Garrett, the white contestant, was eliminated by lead Rachel Lindsay on the sixth episode of the ABC reality series. The episode also saw Lindsay slashing her suitors down to six remaining men after sending a whopping six contestants home. Only one black contestant of the history-making diverse group remains.
The bulk of the promised "drama" by ABC — which included a misleading bloody eye — unfolded on Monday's episode, with Garrett's elimination taking place at the outset of the second night of the heavily teased two-part event. Though Garrett is gone, he leaves weeks of conversations sparked by his actions in his wake.
The source of the series' biggest contention stemmed from Garrett, a singer-songwriter from Nashville, calling Kenny "'Pretty Boy Pitbull" King, a black wrestler from Las Vegas, "aggressive." Within the first minutes of Monday's episode, host Chris Harrison appeared to be addressing critics who have claimed the show is exploiting race for ratings, instead boiling it down to "jealousy" and "ego."
The word "aggressive," however, was uttered almost as many times by Garrett as was King's "snake" accusation in response, even after one of the other black contestants explained the racially charged term.
"When you call him 'aggressive' there is a long-standing history in this country of regarding black men in America as aggressive to justify a lot of other things," contestant Will Gaskins explained to Garrett. When Garrett suggested King was "playing the race card," Gaskins disagreed. "I don't think he meant to play the race card," said Gaskins of King. "I think he truly was offended by it — by that choice of word. If I'm looking at it from an objective standpoint, the way that he's interpreting it is a very negative and potentially racially charged connotation."
Gaskins offered further insight during his one-on-one interview with ABC producers.
"It's probably something that Lee has never faced before," he said. "It's not part of his experience growing up, so it's probably a lot due to ignorance on his part on how certain words can really trigger people." Last week, another contestant, Dean Unglert, also told producers that Garrett was only picking fights with people "he's used to seeing on a daily basis from a cultural perspective."
Though Garrett later proclaimed that he is not "dumb" or "ignorant" and is instead "calculated," his takeaway from the conversation with Gaskins was this: "I think when it comes to Kenny and his view on the world. I just don't understand it. I don't understand the race card, but it got played apparently.... Down South we have a saying and it's about people that have issues. We pray for them and I'll pray for Kenny."
Garrett first began to show his true colors as an antagonist on the June 5 episode, which aired days after racist texts allegedly sent from his social media accounts were unearthed. (Harrison said they were unaware of Garrett's tweets when he was cast.) On the episode, he picked a fight with another black contestant, Eric Bigger.
Despite hearing out both sides of the argument, Lindsay ultimately sided with King and eliminated Garrett during their two-on-one date, explaining that she simply couldn't trust the latter.
Though most of Garrett's actions occurred when Lindsay wasn't present, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a former critic of the series who guest-starred earlier in the season during a group date that Garrett was featured on, had told THR that he was confident Lindsay would "quickly see through" the men who weren't right. After breaking down last week about the pressures of being the first black Bachelorette, Lindsay took to Twitter after Tuesday's episode to say, "I may not see everything and I may do things on my own time...but I keep my grass cut low so the snakes will show!"
The threats Lindsay is referencing went both ways, as King ended his final rant by telling Garrett to "eat shit and f— die" after finding out Garrett told Lindsay that King had a "dark side" when he drinks.
King did get the date rose from Lindsay, but the single father and Lindsay ultimately agreed that it was best he return home to his daughter. The episode saw three additional eliminations, including Gaskins' after a one-on-one date. When Anthony Battle and Josiah Graham were eliminated during the rose ceremony, Bigger, who had previously complained about Battle being the only black contestant to get a one-on-one date before later getting his own, said to the camera: "Two more black guys sent home by Rachel."
In total, four black men left the show Tuesday.
"It's such a struggle," she said about the goodbyes. She also sent Russian Alex Bordyukov home during the episode's second rose ceremony.
After Tuesday, six men remain, with Bigger as the sole black contestant.
Lindsay had previously told THR that she wanted to have conversations about interracial relationships once she saw a future with a contestant, and Tuesday saw one of those moments come to light with frontrunner Bryan Abasolo, who is Colombian. "Do you think your family will accept me?" she asked. He replied by telling her that his family is very open.
The episode also aired as the Bachelor in Paradise controversy continues to play out, with DeMario Jackson speaking out for the first time this week to tell his side of the story. Gaskins had previously been open about his belief that race played a factor with Jackson and the misconduct investigation that temporarily suspended production on the upcoming season of the Bachelor spinoff. (Paradise has since resumed filming.) "It wasn't until The black man [sic] got into the mix that this was deemed as no longer acceptable," Gaskins said in regard to reports that Corinne Olympios also hooked up with other contestants.
The Bachelorette returns with a new episode July 10 on ABC.