Jenkins case raises reality TV concerns
Questions loom about casting practices
The case of Ryan Alexander Jenkins, the Canadian fugitive charged with killing his ex-wife, is raising concerns about the casting practices of reality television.
In a Friday opinion piece in the New York Times, media reporter Brian Stelter says the allegations against Jenkins have "raised questions about the vetting of contestants after it emerged that he had a criminal history, one that 51 Minds said it did not know about when he was cast for Megan Wants a Millionaire."
Jenkins, a 32-year-old Calgary investment banker, had relocated to Los Angeles to be a contestant on the VH1 reality show produced and owned by 51 Minds Entertainment. Megan completed production in March and, shortly after, Jenkins married model and promoter Jasmine Fiore in Las Vegas. The marriage was annulled two months later.
Megan premiered Aug. 2, and in the three episodes that subsequently aired Jenkins was billed as "the smooth operator" from Canada.
He went on to appear on another VH1 show, I Love Money 3, also produced by 51 Minds, which was set to air in January. On Aug. 14, Fiore's mutilated body was found in Orange County, Calif.
51 Minds told The Associated Press on Thursday that it commissions background checks on all contestants on its reality shows, but it didn't turn up Jenkins's troubled past. In 2005, Jenkins pleaded guilty in Calgary to assault on a former girlfriend.
"Obviously, if the company had been given a full picture of his background, he would never have been allowed on the show," 51 Minds said in a statement. It said it was taking steps to ensure this never happens again.
Megan Wants a Millionaire was suspended on Wednesday and cancelled on Saturday. On its website, VH1 said that "this is a tragic situation and our thoughts go out to the victim's family."
The future of I Love Money 3 remains unclear.
Andy Dehnart, editor of realityblurred.com, a website about reality television, told the New York Times that VH1's "abdication of responsibility is totally disingenuous."
He said VH1 "has built a brand on unstable, crazy people interacting on these idiotic and mindless dating shows, and can't pretend to not have anything to do with it."
With files from The Associated Press