The Bachelor producers say there is no merit to a newly-filed class action lawsuit which claims the long-running ABC reality dating franchise has purposely discriminated against people of color.

"This complaint is baseless and without merit," The Bachelor's Warner Horizon production company said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.

"In fact, we have had various participants of color throughout the series' history, and the producers have been consistently -- and publicly -- vocal about seeking diverse candidates for both programs. As always, we continue to seek out participants of color for both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette."

Nashville residents Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson reportedly filed the class action lawsuit against ABC and the producers of The Bachelor franchise -- which has never cast a minority Bachelor or Bachelorette in 24 seasons -- on Wednesday.

According to the lawsuit, The Bachelor producers have "refus[ed] to hire minority applicants" in "a conscious attempt to minimize the risk of alienating their majority-white viewership and the advertisers targeting that viewership."

Claybrooks and Johnson, who are both African-American, reportedly claim they applied for the show during an open casting call in August but were rejected based on their race.  Claybrooks alleges his casting interview took "less than half the time of white applicants in front of him," while Johnson claims he was dismissed before he was even allowed to interview.

"I was stopped by a young gentleman about five feet into the door. He saw fit to ask me exactly what was I doing here," Johnson reportedly told reporters during a Wednesday press conference with Claybrooks and their attorneys.

"Looking back at how I was treated at the casting call last year, it was clear that that wasn't possible -- I never even had a chance," Claybrooks added.

While The Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss has frequently blamed a lack of qualified applicants for the show's sparse minority representation, the men's lawyers believe that isn't the case.

"[It's] just pretext. We think they purposely do not want people of color on this show," attorney Cyrus Mehri said.  "These two gentlemen have come forward and so have dozens of other people -- all they're seeking is an equal opportunity, an equal chance to compete.  How do you explain zero [Bachelors and Bachelorettes of color] for 23 [seasons]?"

"[ABC and the producers] are sending a message of exclusiveness -- of denying people opportunity -- and that has a negative effect on this country that we plan today to start to turn around. This is a case about hope and change. We believe we have concrete solutions about how to make this show... into a kind of show that will be inclusive, will be diverse, and will better reflect this country."

Claybrooks and Johnson refused the financial compensation they will be seeking in the case, Entertainment Weekly reported.
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"This case is impact litigation... it can be a vehicle for change," Mehri said.