For many fans, it was hard to find a reason why Mike Johnson wasn't cast as the Bachelor for season 24. Johnson, a portfolio manager and Air Force veteran, was charming, good-looking and seemed to be the total package on Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette -- with viewers hoping he could be cast as the Bachelor franchise's first-ever black male lead.
However, Peter Weber was cast in the lead role instead, leaving many -- including Rachel Lindsay -- frustrated. "I definitely asked," Lindsay tells ET's Lauren Zima of her questions to producers about why Johnson wasn't cast. "I was extremely vocal about Mike Johnson and how he checked all the boxes and it doesn't make sense why he is not the lead. And it even seemed as if the audience wanted him. The audience was not into Peter."
But Lindsay says she does not believe that the reason Johnson wasn't chosen is because he is black. She says she was told there was something else behind the scenes. "I was told there was a reason. What that reason may be, I don't know," she reveals. "I wasn't given a specific answer."
"Maybe they can't specifically tell me why they didn't choose him. And I think if they could tell us, they would, because it just looks so bad that they didn't pick him," Lindsay says. "I mean, Michael Johnson was a gift. To me, it was an easy decision, but I'm not in the decision room."
"They do all kinds of background checks and vet things out. I have no idea what the reason was, but they have it. I'm told they have a reason," Lindsay repeats, "because I was definitely up in arms when I found out it wasn't going to be him."
In an interview with ET shortly after Weber's Bachelor casting was announced, Johnson said he had "no idea" why he wasn't chosen. "I do agree with Rachel, that after 24 Bachelors, a black Bachelor should have been cast. But at the same time, ABC has been successful," he said. "They know what they're doing for their audience. They know what they're looking for. I wasn't the guy they were looking for at the moment,."
Lindsay is the Bachelor franchise's only black lead in its 18-year history. The Bachelor has cast two Hispanic men as leads, Juan Pablo Galavis and Weber.
Weber's season of women was the most diverse in franchise history. Still, many fans are demanding more inclusion, and Lindsay tells ET she's ready to cut ties with the franchise unless they cast a person of color as the next Bachelor and make other strides toward inclusion.
"The show can make you fall in love with anyone. People weren't receptive to Hannah Brown, then they loved her. She's the most popular by social media standards in regards to the Bachelorette. Peter, same thing -- they didn't love him, then they grew to love him as he was molding into the Bachelor and throughout his season... at least at the beginning part," Lindsay notes.
"It all goes back to the same thing," she concludes. "You're just giving the audience what they're comfortable with."
On Monday, Lindsay laid out in a blog post a series of guidelines she'd like the Bachelor franchise to follow in regard to increasing diversity, and said she would disassociate herself with the franchise if they didn't release a statement acknowledging "systemic racism." See more on Lindsay in the video below.