Big Brother 1 Controversy – Following the premiere of the first season of big brother an attorney from Chicago named Marvin Rosenblum filed a class action lawsuit against CBS (then corporate parent Viacom) and Orwell Production Company for alleged copyright infringement. Mr. Rosenblum was the producer of the film “1984” in addition to owning the rights to the novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. He sought legal action against CBS for illegally using it as the big brother moniker from the novel, alleging that CBS was “deceiving the public to think the author’s classic novel was the origin of the show.” In an attempt to stop the lawsuit, CBS, Orwell and Viacom filed a motion to dismiss the $20 million lawsuit, but the motion was denied. In 2001, Rosenblum settled out our court with CBS, Orwell and Viacom for an undisclosed amount.
Big Brother 2 Controversy – Justin Sebik was out of control even at the beginning of the season before the first house guest had been evicted. The first incident happened when another house guest Kent had brought his own pillow from home and Justin took it and went to bed with it. Kent stormed in and took it back and a yelling match ensued. Justin brought his fists up threatening to punch Kent. After things had cooled down, Justin said that he was just joking around and that he understood that intimidation and physical violence would not be tolerated. Following that incident Justin then proceeded to urinate on a window, smash the chess set, throw a chair, threaten to punch Autumn in the stomach, and threaten to toss glass bottles in the air so that they would smash on the basketball court. The last straw was when Justin Sebik threatened fellow house guest Krista with a knife to her throat asking her “Would you get mad if I killed you?” The incident was fueled by a night of heavy drinking. In addition to that he also threatened her with a floor sweeper by swinging it in slow motion by her head. As Justin was called into the diary room he told Krista (Whom had also been warned about her behaviour) “We got problems! I think it might have been that knife to your neck.” A fellow house guests Hardy said that “living with Justin was like living with a dangerous third grader.” Due to the violent nature of the incidents producers immediately evicted and disqualified Justin. Justin Sebik was the very first big brother house guest to be expelled. When Julie Chen interviewed him after the show ended, Justin showed no understanding of why he had been expelled from the house. Justin said that the knife to the neck was obviously a joke and that anyone who thought it wasn’t was an idiot. Justin also said “I didn’t threaten nuthin’ against anybody.” Justin said that the incident with Kent wasn’t a threat it was intimidation. Interesting choice of words considering he had told producers that he understood that intimidation and physical violence would not be tolerated. Justin told Julie Chen that he was using a strategy of confusion. Following the ending of the season reports surfaced about Justin’s criminal background that should have been discovered prior to allowing him into the big brother house. The reports showed that Justin had been arrested 5 times in his hometown Bayonne, New Jersey. He had 3 allegations of assault and 2 for minor robbery, however none of the charges resulted in prosecution. In addition to this violent behaviour, after the season ended he was arrested again on January 7th, 2002 where his girlfriend had a broken ankle and choke marks on her neck.
Following Krista’s eventual eviction from the house she spoke in her interview saying:
“When Julie asked me about this, I had no recollection of what she was talking about because we were basically joking around. They (the producers) blew that completely out of proportion. Justin is just a fun guy. I really don’t have the memory of the knife. Maybe my eyes were closed at the time, but I never viewed him as a threat. So it wasn’t part of my strategy. I just didn’t remember it. I really didn’t take it seriously. If you know Justin and if you’ve lived with him, then you know completely, he’s off the hook. He’s nuts. He’s funny.”
After the show ended, Krista changed her story and sued CBS over the knife incident.
Season 4 Controversy – Scott Weintraub Scott Weintraub was expelled from the Big Brother 4 season for throwing a temper Tantrum in the house causing the other house guests to fear for their safety. The other house guests feared for their safety and went to the producers in protest to have Scott removed from the house. Scott had gone crazy when he found out that his ex-girlfriend had been cast for the season as well. Scott started throwing chairs across the kitchen, which scared the other house guests. Some of the girls were so scared that they hid in the bathroom in fear. When Scott was called to the diary room he ignored the producer’s requests and refused to go. When called to the diary room Scott said “These people don’t own me. I am not going to the Diary Room.” Scott also told a fellow house guest, David Lane that he thought the producers were taking advantage of him. Eventually, Scott obeyed the producers requests and went to the diary room. After speaking with the producers in the diary room, Scott held a meeting with the other house guests and apologized for his actions. In addition, Scott also admitted to the other house guests that he had contracted Human Papillomavirus Virus (genital warts) from his ex-girlfriend. Scott told the others that it had devastated his life. The other house guests appeared to be more upset about the Scotts STD than the violent outburst. Alison began throwing up and frantically started cleaning the toilet due to HPV’s ability to be transmitted without sexual contact. Michelle also began crying uncontrollably after hearing the news of his STD. Soon after holding a meeting with the other house guests Scott was called to the diary room again and was expelled by the producers.
Big Brother 6 Controversy – During this season there was a confrontation between two house guests over comments Michael Donnellan made about Eric Littman family. Earlier in the day before the confrontation house guest Rachel had overheard Michael and Janelle talking in the Gold Room when Michael made a joke about Eric’s grandparents. Rachel then went and told Eric that she had overheard Michael talking bad about his family. Later in the evening Eric was telling Ivette about the incident and Michael came out into the backyard. Eric then confronted Michael which Michael responded by calling Eric a “midget with a small penis.” Eric then lost it and went to attack Michael when the other house guests stepped in and blocked the two house guests from fighting. Big Brother then intervened and told Eric to report to the diary room immediately, and then told Michael to go to the storage room. Not long after the altercation, Ivette then started to attack Kaysar saying that he had no respect for women, made racial remarks about him and attacked his religion. Once again Big Brother intervened and warned the house guests about their behaviour. After Eric returned he apologized to the other house guests for his behaviour and stated that he would never hurt anyone.
Big Brother 8 Controversy – Throughout the season a number of the house guests made controversial comments about women and religion. The winner of season 8, “Evel” Dick Donato was notorious for being loud and abusive towards the female house guests , in particular Jen Johnson and Amber Siyavus. During an altercation between Dick and Jen, Dick poured a glass of iced tea over her head for making comments about his daughter Daniele Donato. The National Organization for Women tried to have Dick expelled from the big brother house for the incident. Amber Siyavus also attracted criticism for making anti-Semitic comments saying that she was able to recognize a Jew from their last name or the size of their nose.
The Anti-Defamation League released a statement saying:
“It’s offensive. It’s part of the unintended consequences of the communications revolution. Anybody can say what they do – but reality shows are now giving license to these expressions of anti-Semitism. Now, all of a sudden, the world is privy to their bigotry and it’s on national television… then enhanced on YouTube. What they’ve done is distributed anti-Semitism – which started as a private conversation – and by putting it on a reality TV show broadcast it to the world at large. I want CBS to understand they are facilitating anti-Semitism. They should act responsibly to the community; they are legitimizing bigoted conversation”
CBS then released a statement saying:
“BIG BROTHER is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 – and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. We certainly find the statements made by Amber Siyavus on the live Internet feed to be offensive and they will not be part of any future broadcast on the CBS Television Network. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on BIG BROTHER 8, either on any live feed from the House or the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program.”
As a result of the conversation and comments from Amber & Jameka if they were to become part of the jury the press was not allowed to ask the other house guests about Amber’s comments. On day 52, Jen Johnson was named as the replacement nominee for Amber and in an act of defiance she destroyed Dick’s cigarettes by pouring bleach on them. Jen then ate food when she was supposed to only be eating slop and as a result the Big Brother producers told Jen she would receive a penalty nomination. Later Dick started blowing cigarette smoke at Jen and when she tried to take his cigarette away from him she got burned. Jen then claimed he burned her on purpose which stated a yelling match.
Big Brother 9 Controversy – Big Brother 9 was not without controversy or criticism as there were a number of incidents that caused the viewing public to take offense to certain things some house guests said or did in the house. In the second episode that aired Adam Jasinski told the other house guests that he worked for the a Autism Foundation and if he won he would spend part of his winnings on a hair salon so that “retards can get it together and get their hair done.” Other house guests in particular Sheila took offense to his remark and Adam responded by saying “I can call them whatever I want because I work with them all day.” The executive director of Autism United sent a letter to CBS demanding action be taken and that CBS had aired the comment for their own gain. In addition to the letter, the organization also contacted advertisers on the show and demanded that the show be cancelled. Due to the remarks, Lowe’s chose not to advertise during any other future time slots for the big brother episodes. As a result of the comments, the website for United Autism Foundation issued an apology for Adam’s remarks and stated that his employment was terminated. After the conclusion of big brother 9, Adam made a statement that he would be donating $100,000 to the Autism Foundation. In October of 2009, Adam Jasinski was arrested for possession of 2000 oxycodone pills with the intent to distribute. Adam later admitted that he used his Big Brother 9 winnings to fund his illegal drug ring venture. The charges against Adam had him facing 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Following the events, house guests Sheila reported that she felt betrayed by Adam as she had voted for him to win due to his promise to donate $100,000 to the foundation. Allison also stated that she hoped he would get the maximum jail time because he is a terrible person.
Adam was not the only controversial house guest, as Matt called another house guest the N-word which aired on the Big Brother Live Feeds and Big Brother After Dark.
The HOH competition also caused public outcry when the house guests were asked fact or fiction questions about how many pre-existing relationships there were in the house. The correct answer to the question was 3 (Ryan & Jen, Sharon & Jacob, and the two guinea pigs). Many fans thought this question was unfair as it resulted in Sharon incorrectly answering the question and leading to her eviction.
Big Brother 10 Controversy – The 10th season of big brother was criticized by the public and The Parents Television Council for airing the swear word “Fu*king” during the August 5th Tuesday night episode. The incident was an argument between Jessie & Libra where Libra said “Memphis was in the fu*king room!”
Big Brother 11 Controversy – Jeff Schroeder made a homophobic remark during a television broadcast which was censored, however the comment was not censored on the live feeds. In addition to that, Braden Bacha, made derogatory and racist comments in an argument with Lydia and Kevin which was also censored on the episode but not on the live feeds. Braden also made sexually insulting remarks about the host Julie Chen which aired on Big Brother After Dark. Chima Simone commented on the insults of Braden in her final plea for votes to avoid eviction, which CBS producers censored on the episode. Due to the censoring and editing of the comment critics said that this did not accurately depict the facts. Chima told the other house guests that she was told by the diary room that her comments were censored during the episode.
“I said, I don’t think it’s fair because I don’t think they showed when it first was said, and I was like, ‘If someone’s a racist, they should be portrayed as one. You shouldn’t edit it to make them look good.”
CBS later released a statement saying:
“This show is meant to get a good part of its attention from the difference between what you see online and what you see on the show. If it manages to cast a hard-charging racist whose work only appears online, it can seize all the attention of a scandal while claiming that it’s tastefully trying to protect viewers from anything ‘offensive.”
Chima Simone was cast to be on Big Brother 11 as a member of the Brains Clique. Throughout the season, Chima constantly broke the rules and disobeyed the producers instructions including: ignoring calls to the diary room numerous times, refusing to wear the microphone, threating producers that she would act up during the live episode (day35), throwing her mic in the hot tub and obstructing the camera. As a result, Chima was expelled from the big brother house on day 42 and was not allowed to be a part of the jury. The viewing public then took her place on the jury where a poll was setup for America to cast their vote for the winner on the finale episode. Jordan Lloyd won America’s Vote and subsequently was crowned the winner of Big Brother 11 by a vote of 5-2. Chima also called Russell a terrorist on numerous occasions which stirred up controversy. She later stated that the terrorist comment was due to Russell’s constant terrorizing of other house guests.
Big Brother 13 Controversy – Jeff Schroeder returned to the 13th season of big brother and once again was accused of making homophobic comments. When discussing the movie Harry Potter, Jeff commented on how a school should not have a gay teacher, saying “he’s in school with little kids! You don’t want to make that guy gay!” Kalia Booker and Jeff then got into a heated argument over his comments where Jeff accused her of acting offended to appear more favorable to the viewing public. Kalia denied the claims and stated that her offence to his comments was because she has a close family member that is a lesbian. Jeff later apologized to Kalia for his behaviour. CBS released a statement saying they in no way shared the same views as Jeff’s comments.