"Big Brother," the frothy CBS reality competition that isolates strangers inside a custom-made house as they compete for a grand prize, is facing yet another controversy over a contestant's use of offensive language. And this time, it's raising questions about whether the series has a double standard in what behavior it defines as out of bounds.
Last month, shortly after the series' 25th season got underway, "Big Brother" expelled Luke Valentine from the house after the Florida artist used "the N-word" during a casual conversation with other contestants. Producers in a statement said Valentine had violated the “Big Brother” code of conduct and that there was zero tolerance in the house for using a racial slur.
Now, Jared Fields, a Connecticut-based exterminator, has admitted to using a derogatory term for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in reference to another contestant, medical receptionist America Lopez. But unlike Valentine, Fields has been allowed to stay in the "Big Brother" house despite calls by fans for his ouster.
"I don't think she's 'the R-word,'" Fields told college student Cory Wurtenberger, who is involved in a "showmance" with Lopez, during an animated discussion caught on the series' live feed — a 24-hour, multicamera look inside the “Big Brother” compound that supplements the edited episodes on CBS. "I slipped up. Obviously I was angry."
"Big Brother" producers and CBS declined The Times' request for comment. It remains unclear which forms of offensive language the "Big Brother" code of conduct prohibits, and which are subject to the zero-tolerance policy cited in Valentine's case. It is also uncertain whether upcoming episodes on Wednesday and Thursday will address the issue.
One factor that may be shaping the lack of action thus far is Fields role in the season's most intriguing gimmick: Most of his fellow contestants are unaware that another player, nurse and former "Survivor" contestant Cirie Fields, is Jared's mother. The two are secretly plotting to be the last two surviving houseguests of the season, which would put them in position to collect the $750,000 grand prize. (Jared Fields is also the series' current "Head of Household," making him the central figure in the cast this week.)
Among those who've questioned why Fields has been allowed to continue is Valentine, the contestant kicked off earlier in the season. When asked on social media about the situation, Valentine responded, “Enforcement of the code of conduct seems rather selective, doesn’t it?” in a comment that has since been deleted. Valentine's exit was the latest in a series of racially charged incidents on "Big Brother" that have shadowed the competition since its premiere.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.