‘Survivor’ honcho has spoken

Burnett blasts crix over racial reaction

This article was updated at 4:41 p.m.

Mark Burnett on Tuesday lashed out at “Survivor” critics who don’t watch the show, saying this season “wouldn’t be racial at all.”

Show’s creator said intra-squad rivalry on “Survivor: Cook Islands” –in which four teams would be divided according to race — would trump any tension between the groups and thus avoid racism.

“By putting people in tribes, they clearly have to get rid of people of their own ethnicity,” he told a group of reporters. “So it’s not racial at all.”

Criticism, he said, came from a place of ignorance.

“People are saying things who’ve never seen ‘Survivor’ … and don’t understand how it works,” Burnett said.

He added, “Clearly, to win ‘Survivor,’ it’s the biggest leadership test ever. What other contest or life thing do you have to literally get rid of people — sometimes brutally — and then ask them to give you money?”

Burnett was speaking on a conference call for joint AOL-CBS Internet series “Gold Rush.” A press advisory specifically had warned that he wouldn’t discuss “Survivor,” but when a reporter asked Burnett about the controversy, he waved aside the AOL publicist’s objections and said he’d answer anyway.

“I don’t want to talk about this necessarily, but I also don’t want to avoid it,” he said.

Burnett also criticized those who didn’t watch the show, whose 13th season debuts Sept. 14. “The truth is I look at how many people are making so many comments, and many of them admit to never ever seeing ‘Survivor,’ ” he said.

In earlier comments to Daily Variety, he offered the hope that “maybe that taboo (of race) could disappear” through this season’s concept.

Issue got thornier for CBS on Tuesday, as gambling sites like WagerWeb.com posted odds, offering the strange spectacle of favored and underdog ethnicities. Among its handicaps: “Winner’s Ethnicity of ‘Survivor: Cook Islands’ — Caucasian (2.25 to 1), Asian-American (2 to 1) Hispanic (2.75 to 1) and African-American (2.4 to 1).”

CBS said in a statement last week that this season, like past ones, will illuminate social dynamics, and that viewers should wait to see the episodes before judging them. A rep said the net continues to stand by that statement.

Meanwhile, New York community leaders held a rally Tuesday in front of CBS headquarters in Gotham. Several New York council members and activists, including Fernando Mateo and the Rev. Calvin Butts, attended the protest, held in persistent rain.

The chief of staff for Councilman John Liu later told Daily Variety that council members were in the process of drafting letters to General Motors and other “Survivor” sponsors.

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