7:00pm PT by Jackie Strause, Christina Schoellkopf
Controversial 'Bachelorette' Contestant Lee Garrett Reveals How He Was Cast
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the June 5 episode of The Bachelorette.]
Monday night brought out the worst in more than one contestant on The Bachelorette.
After stumbling upon a heated conversation with two of his housemates, Eric Bigger and Iggy Rodriguez, contestant Lee Garrett warned Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay about Bigger. After stirring the pot — "This is the shit-talking night, and it's fun," Garrett said with a smile to the camera — Lindsay questioned Bigger's intentions, even though she'd already given him a rose, and Bigger engaged in his second confrontation with Garrett.
The episode ended on a "To be continued" note and scenes for next week show escalating tension when one of the black contestants, Will Gaskins, is seen explaining to Garrett, who is white, why it's offensive to call a black man "aggressive." It's unclear at this point who Garrett was referring to, though the clip points to Kenny King. "When you call him 'aggressive,' there is a long-standing history in this country regarding black men as aggressive to justify a lot of other things," says Gaskins.
Lindsay, who has spoken openly about her intentions to not let race dictate her journey on the show, is then shown in tears: "I did not want to get into all of this tonight, and I already know what people are going to say about me, and I'm going to be the one who has to deal with that and nobody else, and that's a lot."
The racially charged episode comes on the heels of recent revelations about Garrett, a self-described country boy from Nashville. In posts that have since been deleted from his social media accounts, viewers online uncovered tweets Garrett had allegedly sent in 2015 and 2016 that were racist, sexist and offensive to the LGBT community.
“Thousands sign petition to recognize #BlackLivesMatter as a terrorist group after Dallas,” he wrote on July 9, 2016. In another 2016 tweet, he called out "all this ‘gay community' talk, all these rainbow flags instead of American" when reacting to the Orlando nightclub shooting. In another, he asked, "What's the difference between the NAACP and the KKK? Wait for it... One has the sense of shame to cover their racist ass faces." His accounts have since been made private.
ABC declined comment, but franchise host Chris Harrison took to Twitter to say, "No, of course we didn't know about the offensive tweets from Lee's account. None of us were aware of them Very unfortunate." [sic]
The discovery has since led to outcry from many viewers, who called for Garrett's elimination even before the drama unfolded on Monday night's episode. With Lindsay as the first-ever black lead in the series, this season holds extra weight for viewers who are tuning in weekly to watch the most diverse group of contestants in the franchise's 15-year existence compete for Lindsay's heart. Three weeks into the season, Lindsay's men continue to reflect a racially inclusive cast.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Garrett ahead of The Bachelorette season premiere about how he came to land a spot on the history-making season. The aspiring singer said he was approached by the show — something veteran casting director Lacey Pemberton had previously told THR is a common way to recruit cast members. When detailing the year-long casting routine, Pemberton explained that her team takes submissions, holds events and has recruiters out looking for people who might be a good fit for the lead. "It’s quite a process," she said.
See how Garrett pitched himself to THR below.
When and why did you decide to audition for The Bachelorette?
I was actually scouted in Nashville. I got a message on Facebook from one of the show scouts saying, “Lee! What would you think if I asked if you would be interested to try out for The Bachelorette?” It kind of shocked me. I thought, “Me?” I had never seen the show before, so I was honest and told them I don’t know much about it and I don’t see myself as the type of guy to really go on a show like that — because you think it’s a bunch of guys that are dashing, and I’m a Mississippi boy. It wasn’t something that I ever thought I’d be doing. But I told them it intrigued me, and then it went from there into six months of interviews and all kinds of things.
Did you know Rachel was cast as the Bachelorette before or after you accepted?
I did not know before, and I didn’t know any of the process. I didn’t know who it was going to be. I knew a few people who had been on the season before me, being from Nashville, because it’s a small town. You kind of run into people that have done it in the past and hear stories. I watched Nick’s season, so I got to know the people from watching. I got a phone call from one of the casting directors right after Rachel had been announced, and she goes, “So Lee, did you hear about what happened?” I said, “Yes, ma'am.” She asked if I was still interested, and I said, “Absolutely!” They asked me what I thought and I said I had been watching and that Rachel was probably the classiest girl on the season, and it was somethin’ else. Then I started really paying attention to her and who she was and learning things about her. I got more excited as time went by. The final audition went through, we flew out to L.A., and they did the first cuts and everything. It’s wild.
What was your in-person audition process like?
It was just a bunch of questions. A bunch of pictures and videos. You just tell them who you are, and you don’t really know anything past that.
What do you think makes you different from the other guys?
I’m the only guy that says "y’all" in this group and who plays the guitar and sings. And is from Mississippi. And wears a pair of boots. We had one guy that I met that I think had another pair of boots, but there’s only room for one pair of boots here. I am country to the bone. I have manners. I’m the “yes ma’am, no ma’am”-type guy. I’m the kind of guy to open the door for a girl, and I try to be polite. If she likes that kind of stuff, I think that will make me stand out.
What do you think of Garrett's actions off camera and the role he played in the confrontations happening on-screen? Tell THR in the comments, and keep up with Live Feed for weekly coverage of The Bachelorette.