“Big Brother,” the CBS reality show that isolates contestants inside a custom-made house, marked the first evictions of its 25th season during Thursday’s live episode.

But the houseguests were stunned when they learned that the first houseguest to depart did so not because of the usual vote, but because he had used a racial slur.

During a taped segment, Reilly Smedley, the season’s first head of household, told her fellow contestants that Luke Valentine had violated the show’s code of conduct and would no longer be in the house.

The Florida-based illustrator was dispatched soon after using the N-word during an off-the-cuff conversation which aired on the series’ live feed — a 24-hour, multi-camera look inside the “Big Brother” compound that supplements the edited episodes on CBS.

The utterance horrified two white houseguests, who quickly left the room. Valentine tried to backtrack, apologizing to a Black houseguest who was also in the room. He then said, “I don’t give a f—.”

CBS on Wednesday issued a statement that Valentine had violated the “Big Brother” code of conduct and that there was zero tolerance in the house for using a racial slur.

The houseguests reacted with open-mouthed shock when Smedley informed them of the exit. They then discussed the incident for a few moments.

Jared Fields, the only Black male houseguest, said in a separate interview that he did not feel animus toward Valentine: “I don’t associate ignorance with malice.” But he indicated he supported the punishment.

The ouster is the latest in a long line of racially charged incidents that have shadowed the series since its premiere. Most recently, Black contestant Kemi Fakunle in 2019 publicly decried “degrading and threatening comments” from fellow houseguests and accused a producer of encouraging her to use a stereotypical Black accent. (The producer was reprimanded and received unconscious bias training.)

The cast of “Big Brother” was historically dominated by white contestants until 2020, when top network executives mandated that the casts of all CBS reality shows be at least 50% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color).

Even the recent triumphs of Black houseguests in a format traditionally won by white contestants have caused controversy. In 2021, an all-Black alliance known as the Cookout was accused of “reverse racism” by some viewers for its campaign to ensure the series’ first Black winner.


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