Celebrity Big Brother: The most controversial moments

Armchair voyeurs, rejoice – the ultimate people-watching experiment is back, but this time, in celebrity mode.

Celebrity Big Brother is making a return to our screens after a six-year break, having last crowned Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas as its winner in 2018.

Now airing on ITV2, the programme is headed up by AJ Odudu and Will Best, who made their joint presenting debut last year during the return of Big Brother.

Previous iterations of the show have created TV gold, from Tiffany Pollard’s iconic “David’s Dead” misunderstanding to George Galloway and Rula Lenska‘s creepy cat cosplay.

As many high points as the show has had, there have also been moments of high controversy. Here’s a rundown of some of the most memorable...

Jade Goody, Jo O’Meara and Danielle Lloyd’s racism scandal

One of the most difficult moments in Celebrity Big Brother history came in 2005 when Big Brother icon Jade Goody, S Club 7 singer Jo O’Meara and media personality Danielle Lloyd were accused of racist bullying towards the Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty.

Shetty was the target of several conversations between Goody, O’Meara and Lloyd, with Goody causing particular offence by referring to the Indian film star as “Shilpa Poppadom”, among other offensive terms.

Goody’s treatment of Shetty caused widespread outrage across the nation and beyond. A protest took place in India, with some burning effigies of the reality star, while tensions grew between the UK and Indian governments.

After a public vote, Goody was evicted over Shetty and claimed 82 per cent of all votes cast. In an interview with the then-presenter Davina McCall, Goody apologised for her behaviour and said she was “disgusted” with her behaviour upon rewatching the footage.

Lee Ryan’s love triangle

During his stint in the house in 2014, Blue singer Lee Ryan had connections with actor Casey Batchelor and model Jasmine Waltz – and seemingly forgot that many cameras and microphones were catching his every move.

Lee Ryan was mortified after Casey Batchelor’s mother told her some home truths on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014 (Channel 5 / screengrab)
Lee Ryan was mortified after Casey Batchelor’s mother told her some home truths on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014 (Channel 5 / screengrab)

Ryan would tell conflicting stories to Batchelor and the other housemates, creating an air of confusion around his feelings for the actor. The triangle seemed like it would only end in disaster – and it did, when Batchelor’s mum Kim entered the house during a challenge.

“Stay away from Lee,” Kim told her daughter, adding: “He’s mugged you off, darling.”

Christopher Biggins gets the boot

Christopher Biggins (Getty Images)
Christopher Biggins (Getty Images)

Pantomime star Christopher Biggins was removed from the summer 2016 edition of Celebrity Big Brother for repeatedly making offensive statements regarding bisexuality, race and religion.

Biggins, who is gay, was accused of biphobia by viewers on several occasions. After once claiming that bisexuals are the “worst type” of people in the LGBT community, the actor then conflated bisexuality with the global Aids crisis.

“Gays had been really badly treated, then suddenly they became respected,” he told Mob Wives star Renee Graziano. “Then a killer disease came that was attributed to homosexuals. I think it was a bisexual disease to be honest.”

As well as this, unaired scenes depicted Biggins making comments to his Jewish fellow Housemate and former X Factor contestant Katie Waissel that Big Brother considered “plainly capable of causing offence to Katie and the viewing public”.

After this was explained to Biggins in the Diary Room, he was ejected from the competition.

Jeremy Jackson’s removal

Jeremy Jackson was ejected from CBB in 2015 (Channel 5)
Jeremy Jackson was ejected from CBB in 2015 (Channel 5)

American actor Jeremy Jackson got the boot from Big Brother in 2015 after inappropriate behaviour towards his fellow housemate, glamour model Chloe Goodman.

After drinking a mix of alcoholic beverages including rum and vodka, former Baywatch star Jackson excused himself to throw up in the bathroom (one of the few places in the house with no cameras). Goodman entered to check on him, before her mic picked up on her saying: “That’s not OK, I’m leaving now.”

Goodman then left the room in tears, before later telling housemates: “He went to my dressing gown top and put my boob out.”

Later, speaking in the show’s Diary Room, Jackson described the incident as a mixture of “innocence and curiosity”. Producers placed him in a separate sleeping area for the night, before deciding to remove Jackson the following day, deeming his behaviour “wholly unacceptable”.

Hertfordshire Police issued a caution to Jackson for his behaviour.

Ken Morley gets kicked out

Elsewhere in the 2015 season, Benidorm and Coronation Street actor Ken Morley was kicked out of the house after using the n-word.

Morley, who played Reg Holdsworth on the Manchester-based soap, was removed just six days into the process. His son, Roger, issued an apology on his father’s behalf on social media.

Roxanne Pallett’s accusations against Ryan Thomas

Roxanne Pallett in the Diary Room (Channel 5 / screengrab)
Roxanne Pallett in the Diary Room (Channel 5 / screengrab)

In 2018, former Emmerdale actor Roxanne Pallett inaccurately accused her fellow soap star Ryan Thomas of assault after a play fight in the presence of other housemates.

The former Coronation Street star lightly jabbed Pallett on the arm with his fist, before Pallett discreetly asked Big Brother to call her to the Diary Room. In tears, she then told Big Brother that Thomas should be removed from the house for “punching” her “like a boxer”.

Viewers debated the incident heavily, with many denouncing Pallett’s claims as being deliberately exaggerated. After choosing to leave the competition, Pallett apologised “massively” for her allegations against Thomas and claimed that after viewing the footage she realised she’d ‘“got it wrong”.

Thomas ultimately won the season and told the then-host Emma Willis that he forgave Pallett in his victory interview.

“If this person has an issue and a misunderstanding, who am I to sit there and judge?” he said.

“Forgiveness is a big thing so if she wants forgiveness and it makes her feel better than I would give her that. I think she’s been punished enough by the public.”

The 2024 series of Celebrity Big Brother launches on Monday 4 March on ITV1 and ITVX.