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‘The Bachelorette’: ABC Exec Dishes on the Finale’s Controversial Winner

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched Becca Kufrin’s finale of “The Bachelorette,” which aired Aug. 6 on ABC. 

Becca Kufrin’s season of “The Bachelorette” has come to a close, and the reality star appears to be blissfully happy with her fiancé Garrett Yrigoyen — but, some viewers are not pleased with the winner of Season 14, following a social media controversy that erupted earlier during the season.

Yrigoyen, who beat out runner-up Blake Horstmann, was a frontrunner from the get-go when he received the first impression rose on night one. However, Yrigoyen also garnered attention off-screen when his past social media activity resurfaced, showing a history of liking Instagram posts by political pundits that mock Parkland high school students, liberal women, trans people and undocumented immigrants.

After the social media firestorm, Yrigoyen immediately apologized, saying, in part, “I am sorry to those who I offended and I also take full responsibly for my ‘likes’ on Instagram that were hurtful and offensive…I have learned an extremely valuable lesson and am taking steps to grow, become more educated, and be a better version of myself.”

Yrigoyen’s Instagram scandal wasn’t the only controversy to hit “The Bachelorette” this year. Roughly halfway through the season, it was revealed that contestant Lincoln Adim, was convicted of indecent assault and battery resulting from a 2016 incident, raising questions regarding the process of background checks on the reality series.

ABC executive Rob Mills, the network’s SVP of alternative series, specials, and late-night programming, tells Variety that since Lincoln, background checks — which are headed by “The Bachelorette” studio Warner Bros. TV — have been upped and are now more thorough than ever to avoid casting mishaps in the future. (Warner Bros. TV declined to comment.)

Here, ABC executive Rob Mills discusses Garrett Yrigoyen, Lincoln Adim, “Bachelor In Paradise” and Becca Kufrin’s future…

When we spoke at the end of Arie’s season of “The Bachelor,” you were very excited to have Becca as “The Bachelorette.” What are your thoughts on Becca’s season?

As a whole, I really liked the season. I absolutely love the finale. I really like Becca — she’s such a different bachelorette from what we’ve ever seen. She’s very resilient. I think she’s one of those ones that everyone is going to remember. And I think we have a happy couple that hopefully will be one of the long lasting ones. On that level, I think the show was really a success. Obviously, I think some of the drama wasn’t focused on her and furthering her relationships, and we need to look at that as we move into further seasons.

After Garrett’s controversial social media behavior resurfaced earlier in the season, are you worried about backlash to him winning?

Before people knew he was the winner, what Garrett did is he made a statement about it to avoid this very thing because he wanted to get out in front of it and said, ‘Look, I realize this was something that was incredibly distasteful and something I feel really bad about and I want to learn from this,’ which is sort of all you can ask from anyone. He kept getting brought back up as this monster because of liking those things — which I completely agree because that is not okay — but he said that [it’s not okay]. I don’t know what more he can do other than that. With everything we know about Becca, she is not going to be with a person who really believes that this stuff that he liked is funny, or that those are his actual views. As long as he continues to evolve and can learn and become an even more complete person, then I think they’re a fine couple. That’s not something we need to be ashamed of, or never speak about this couple again.

How did the network go about deciding how to cover Garrett’s controversy on After The Final Rose?

You’re not going to see Chris Harrison put Garrett on trial and say, “How can you possible do these things?” Garrett has already said exactly how it happened [in his statement]. I think we’re all guilty of it — just looking at something and liking it, not really knowing what you’re doing. I’m not trying to make light of this in any way, shape or form, but he tried to explain it, he said he really regrets and thinks it was wrong, so I don’t know what more he can say. He has addressed it. But we absolutely will talk about it in the context of how this has affected them and how it has affected both of them. He has also been through the ringer in what people said about him and his family. People were certainly not great to him on social media. I think we’ll talk about it from that angle, but it’s certainly not a place to have Garrett answer more about why because he’s already done that.

A lot of the social media posts that Garrett liked were politically charged, and caused a stir, especially because of the political divide in our country right now. Is there any concern over contestants sharing their political views on the show?

No. I think that political views are part of who we are as a person and part of all of our relationships. Certainly, a debate about political views is fine. That’s not what this show is, I don’t want it to turn into a TED talk, but if it comes out, that’s absolutely fine. Where Garrett was wrong was liking things that were in bad taste or disrespectful — but there’s nothing wrong if Garrett is conservative or voted for Donald Trump. Plenty of people did.

The show cast a convicted sex offender this season with Lincoln, who was on for about half the season. How does that happen?

The background checks we were doing at the time with Lincoln were as thorough as any background check you would do with applying for a job or doing anything. It was not some sort of cursory thing. Obviously, you never ever want this situation to happen. Believe me, the list of people that we have not had on the show based on the various checks that we do is much longer than the people that are in it — it doesn’t take much to not make the show. This was just an incident that happened in a place that doesn’t normally get checked in these type of background checks, and now, we will make sure that every possible sweep can be made.

How will these casting mistakes be avoided in the future? 

The thing with Lincoln was something that was certainly unfortunate, but based on the very thorough background checks we’ve done now, we saw where that loophole was. We had a big meeting with Warner Bros. and it’s something that concerns everybody and it was really upsetting to everybody. You want to put forward the best possible people. That doesn’t mean people who have differences of opinion, but people who are certainly going to pass a background check. So we had a meeting and I think we found a way that will correct so that situation never happens again.

Can you elaborate what you mean by there being a “loophole” in Lincoln’s background check?

It’s honestly just doing a more thorough background check now.

Why wasn’t the Lincoln controversy brought up on the “Men Tell All” episode? 

He certainly didn’t deserve to be there. But I don’t quite understand what anyone wanted us to say. Yes, we were upset, we agree, it was unfortunate. Fortunately, he was only on six episodes — and yes, that’s six episodes too many — but I’m not quite sure what a debate about Lincoln would have done. It certainly had nothing to do with Becca and her finding her person. Yes, the “Men Tell All” is about the dynamics between the different people and the cast, but certainly no one wanted to defend him. What was Chris [Harrison] going to do? Ask the guys if they think Lincoln deserves to be here? No, he did not. Period. End of story. It’s just odd, that’s even a question that people had because I think we’ve made it very clear that once he was off, he was off. He certainly had no business having a seat there, so that was it and that’s all we had to say on the matter.

The finale is filmed long before it airs, so a few months later now, how are Becca and Garrett doing now? 

They’re deliriously happy. She saw a lot of her dad in Garrett. I think he has a lot of the same strong family ties. They’re very similar and like-minded people, and really complete each other, in a way that certainly Arie didn’t. That’s what’s been really nice about all of this. As gut-wrenching as that Arie breakup was, in the long run, the fact that we have someone who can say that this actually worked out the way it should and the way it did, is great. They’re super happy.

Have you discussed with Becca and Garrett any plans to televise their wedding?

It’s funny because I feel like we’ve got this lineup of engaged couples now so we have to figure out what to do. None of them seem to want to take us up on a mass wedding, which I understand, although I’d love that [laughing]. But yes, I’m sure we’ll talk with them about what next steps are in their relationship. On “After the Final Rose,” we’ll talk about whether they’ve discussed a timeline.

Have you considered casting Becca on “Dancing With the Stars?”

Now that the season is over, we like keeping these people in the family. We love when they do “DWTS” or a one-off on a game show, so obviously we want to keep her somewhere in the family, but we’re just not sure where. But we absolutely love Becca.

On the topic of TV weddings, what about Arie and Lauren’s wedding?

I want to make this very clear: there is no ill will with Arie and Lauren toward the show. Everybody feels like it all worked out for the best — Arie found his person and they could not be happier and they are going to get married. This is not, “we hate you guys and we don’t want to televise your wedding,” but they announced that they are going to have a wedding and it will be a private, family affair, I think in December in Hawaii, which we totally respect and we’re just thrilled that this marriage came out of the show, and wish them all the best. They’ll always be part of Bachelor Nation.

Arie and Lauren actually make an appearance in “Bachelor In Paradise” this summer. What else can you tease about the upcoming season of “Bachelor In Paradise?”

Well, there were no scandals that shut the show down this season, so that was really nice. It’s everything you really love about “Bachelor In Paradise,” which is that it’s a fun summer vacation. If anything, one of the things you heard about this [“Bachelorette”] season was criticism that it felt very serious — which is a good thing because it’s really about Becca finding her person and she did that. But I think people are looking for an escape right now, and this season of “Bachelor in Paradise” is certainly that. There are a lot of great love triangles and a lot of heartbreak and a lot of love. The greatest moment is the engagement of Jared and Ashley.

Ashley I. and Jared’s engagement came as a shock, was it shocking on set?

I think it was shocking to everybody. We didn’t think anything of it, and then it went from 0 to 80. Once they got together, they just knew. Shocked? Yes. But also happy. I think there was more excitement over this couple than maybe over any couple in the history of this franchise. It was crazy how much love people have for these two.

It does seem like there have been a lot more couples coming out of “The Bachelor” franchise that are actually staying together, in comparison to years of the show being mocked for so many failed relationships. Why do you think there’s been this change?

I think it’s the casting. I think we’ve gotten really good at weeding out who the people are that are there to be on TV and who are the people who really want love. It’s essentially not hard to find people who are really sincere about love. Obviously, you get the people who aren’t, but they make really good TV. But I think there is the sincerity factor that has been amped up. It’s also helped when we have people from previous seasons be the lead because the men and women trying out for the show know who that person is and know if they would be compatible. And we also know them so much better so we know what they like and what they’re looking for, which is really helpful. The show used to be a punchline for having just one couple stay together, but now, I think we’re well into the double digits, and we’re really proud of that.

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