Selena Gomez Felt “Bullied” by the ‘Saved by the Bell’ Jokes About Her Kidney Transplant

The jokes "really upset" Gomez.

Selena Gomez
(Image credit: Tibrina Hobson)
  • Jokes in the Saved by the Bell reboot about Selena Gomez's kidney transplant "really upset" the star, an inside source told Entertainment Tonight.
  • Gomez "thought of [the jokes] as bullying and offensive," the insider said.
  • "She felt as though her kidney transplant, and others who have gone through that, was used as a joke at her expense," the source continued.

Peacock's new Saved by the Bell reboot came under fire last week over a scene in which characters joked about Selena Gomez's kidney transplant, which she underwent in 2017 after receiving a lupus diagnosis several years earlier. Gomez hasn't commented publicly on the controversy—but according to an insider, she was "really upset" by the scene, which she perceived as "bullying."

In case you missed it: A scene in the reboot, which recently launched on NBC's streaming platform, Peacock, featured two characters arguing about Gomez' transplant. "I know for a fact that Selena Gomez's kidney donor was Justin Bieber's mom. God, I wish that I had my phone so that I could prove it," one character says, as Entertainment Tonight reports

"Prove what? That you’re an idiot?" a second character responds. "It was Demi Lovato's kidney. They’re best friends, like you and I were." In a later scene, graffiti reading, "Does Selena Gomez even have a kidney?" is visible in the background. (For the record: Gomez' actual kidney donor was close friend Francia Raisa.)

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight, a source close to Gomez said, "Selena was really upset by the Saved by the Bell scene about her health and thought of it as bullying and offensive." The insider added, "She felt as though her kidney transplant, and others who have gone through that, was used as a joke at her expense."

While Gomez hasn't spoken publicly on the matter, Raisa criticized the show and its producers' subsequent apology on social media. Peacock, NBCUniversal, and the executive producers of Saved by the Bell released a statement after the jokes sparked an outcry online, reading, "We apologize. It was never our intention to make light of Selena's health. We have been in touch with her team and will be making a donation to her charity, The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at USC."

On Twitter, Raisa wrote, "Appreciate the apology but let’s not forget about the donors that potentially felt offended and dismissed from the spray paint written on the wall." In a subsequent tweet, she continued, "As a kidney donor I want to show love and let other donors know that you are not alone. You are seen. You are appreciated. You are so brave and your selfless act is very much appreciated and valued!"

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Selena Gomez

(Image credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Hanna Varady)

Emily Dixon
Morning Editor

Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.