Scandals That Shook Bachelor Nation

Scandals That Shook Bachelor Nation

March 8, 2021

The world is gearing up for the 20th anniversary of The Bachelor. You heard it right: it’s almost been two decades since the series premiered in 2002, and one rose at a time, it’s become a reality TV institution — or in the lingo of host Chris Harrison, the Bachelor Nation. Let’s just say, the GDP of this nation is massive. Not only have we endured 25 emotional seasons of The Bachelor, but the spinoffs have been just as prolific. At the time of this writing, The Bachelorette is awaiting its 17th season; Season 7 of Bachelor In Paradise has been confirmed; and even the short-lived Bachelor Pad got three seasons before ABC abruptly withheld its final rose.

Obviously, the world is a different place in 2021 than it was in the early aughts, the resurgence of platform sandals and butterfly clips notwithstanding. It was an era of unhinged reality shows, where convincing insecure women to get extreme plastic surgery in order to win a competition was not out of bounds (lest we ever forget The Swan, which The New Yorker once called the “most sadistic reality series of the decade”). The Bachelor, as inherently uncontroversial as it might seem, is still a product of its generation. The series has been notoriously plagued by scandal, including dodging long-standing claims of racism.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest scandals in Bachelor Nation history — from breakups and shake ups to more insidious allegations.

The Rachael Kirkconnell racism controversy

Let’s start from the most recent: the controversy surrounding Rachael Kirkconnell (pronounced Rachel not Raquel, which took us three two-hour episodes to figure out). The graphic designer appeared to be the front-runner of Season 25 before her past came back to haunt her, as it usually does when your past exists on the Internet. Forget that season’s bullying allegations with Queen Victoria – there are bigger fish to fry. The real important takeaway was the not-so-secret alleged racism, which has become the veritable hallmark of The Bachelor series.

As the first Black bachelor, Matt James was supposed to signal progress. Nonetheless, things started to spiral when TikTok user @maddyybierster alleged that Rachael teased her for “liking black guys” in high school. Maddy’s admission was met with an outpouring of solidarity from individuals who allegedly also experienced the same thing from Rachael in either high school or college.

It didn’t take long for someone to do a deep-dive into Rachael’s social media accounts, which according to Cosmopolitan, uncovered a wealth of cultural appropriation, bizarre QAnon conspiracy theories, and likes hurled at Trump-loving friends wearing MAGA hats. It was, of course, all exposed in the brevity of a single TikTok. Then, in February 2021, images surfaced of Rachael at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal, which happened two years after the fraternity’s board of directors banned this type of event. The following week, she issued a public apology.

Chris Harrison's shocking exit from Bachelor Nation

Despite the public apology, the Rachael Kirkconnell saga was punctuated by the temporary resignation of Chris Harrison, whom we’ve affectionately dubbed Bachelor Daddy, since he’s the paternal figure who’s been helping the cast sort out their drama since day one. He’s even been an integral part of oft-forgotten spin-offs, like The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart and The Bachelor Winter Games. As the face of the franchise (besides red roses, which arguably do a lot of brand ambassador legwork), he’s endured the brunt of the series’ racism criticism, but things were really poised to change.

Season 25 didn’t just see the first Black bachelor, which took an egregious amount of time. It also cast 25 BIPOC women, who were less than pleased when Harrison decided to defend Rachael rather than condemn her actions. In a bombshell interview with Extra’s Rachel Lindsay, who was previously the franchise’s first Black bachelorette, the longtime host assailed the so-called “woke police” for criticizing Rachael. His boldest claim? An antebellum-themed plantation party only looked bad through the lens of 2021.

Not long after, Season 25 contestant Piper James posted a statement on Instagram co-signed by her fellow BIPOC castmates, voicing their support for Lindsay and subtly throwing Harrison under the bus. Three days after the Extra interview, Harrison issued a public apology and announced he’d be temporarily “stepping aside” from the franchise. “By excusing historical racism, I defended it,” he wrote.

Victoria Fuller's white lives matter scandal

Victoria Fuller walked so Rachael Kirkconnell could run. The star had a classic oopsie-daisy-I-didn’t-realize-this-was-racist scandal, and if we didn’t know any better, we’d think The Bachelor owned the patent for these kinds of moments. Cue: facepalm.

Victoria was the breakout villain of Season 24. She somehow made it to the final three despite not appearing to be all that nice to Pete Weber (a.k.a. Pilot Pete and that guy who banged in a windmill three times). She was even accused of gaslighting the star during a hometown argument so baffling we had to rewind our DVR twice just to understand it.

Somewhere after Bachelor Nation started rooting against her — which honestly didn’t take long — an insidious photo shoot from the star’s past surfaced, where she was pictured modeling “White Lives Matter” merchandise. That same brand, We Love Marlins, also sold clothes emblazoned with a confederate flag and the words “Blue Lives Matter,” purportedly to promote white and blue marlin conservation. Let’s not even entertain the idea that anyone would fail to understand the double entendre. 

According to BuzzFeed, the photo shoot cost Victoria a Cosmopolitan cover, which was a prize for winning a group date. She later issued an apology on Instagram Stories, where she rejected the White Lives Matter movement. “My intention was only to support an endangered species,” she wrote (via People), specifically aiming her apology at “people of color that are affected by racism daily.” Is anyone buying it?

The words Hannah Brown shouldn't have said

It’s pretty common knowledge that throwing around racial epithets is bad — yes, even when they’re the lyrics of a song, and especially when it’s online to 2.6 million followers. That’s not really the example you’d want to set. Nonetheless, Hannah Brown — who starred in Season 15 of The Bachelorette – added it to her long list of poor decisions, which should arguably include passing on Tyler Cameron, who was good enough for Gigi Hadid.

Amidst speculation of a reunion with Tyler in May 2020, Hannah hopped on Instagram for a Saturday night Live session, where she sang the lyrics to DaBaby’s “Rockstar.” According to Variety, this included the N-word, which in and of itself would be enough to make Bachelor Nation collectively angry, but Hannah also had spectacularly awful timing (as if there’s ever a good time for racist microaggressions). Days after she issued a public apology on Instagram, George Floyd was killed in police custody, triggering a wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the nation.

Despite her regrets, Hannah was lambasted by her fellow Bachelor Nation alumni. This included Bekah Martinez, who urged the star to make a “legitimate apology,” and Rachel Lindsay, who advised her followers against giving “people a pass” for using racial slurs, according to Us Weekly. Hannah eventually offered up a second apology, but initially held back so as to not take away from the Black Lives Matter conversation, Variety reports.

Clare Crawley's Bachelorette shakeup

At 38 years old, Claire Crawley was the oldest bachelorette in history — a woman who could’ve positioned herself as Bachelor Nation’s sovereign queen. Instead, she ended up devolving into a giggly puddle who insisted she “just met [her] husband” the second Dale Moss uttered a word. See, the problem with casting a woman who’s fast-approaching her 40s is that she’s dated enough to know exactly what she wants. She doesn’t need to try out 25 guys through a series of demeaning group dates (let’s never relive strip dodgeball again) and explosive confrontations. As a result, Claire ended up making Bachelor Nation history by running away with Dale in the middle of the season, leaving the Bachelorette effectively bacheloretteless.

There was speculation that Claire knew Dale before she ever officially met him. Production was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which left plenty of time to slide into each other’s DMs. Per Refinery29, Claire admitted to Googling her beau and following his social media posts, but she maintained that there was no contact. In other words, she was crushing from afar.

People on Reddit weren’t convinced, but alas, the pair ran off into the sunset, and Claire was replaced with Tayshia Adams. The season had an otherwise uneventful run. Unfortunately, every rose has its thorns, and Claire and Dale unsurprisingly broke up in the months that followed, a true testament to the fact that you probably shouldn’t get engaged after just four episodes.

Bachelor Nation star Chris Soules' fatal accident

Chris Soules, who starred in Season 19 of The Bachelor, didn’t start out as a Bachelor villain, yet he found himself dating Victoria Fuller, which might say a lot if you’re willing to read into it, but we digress. Soules’ tragic scandal rocked the Bachelor Nation. It took years to legally sort out, and he’s still dealing with the emotional aftermath.

According to TMZ, the star was arrested in 2017 following a fatal car crash, where he reportedly “rear ended a John Deere tractor,” and then fled the scene before cops arrived (though he did wait for the ambulance). Unfortunately, the tractor driver died from his injuries in the hospital, and when police came to arrest Soules, he allegedly refused to come out of his house. There was some speculation that Soules was under the influence, though he was only charged with “leaving the scene with a death.”

TMZ reports that the former bachelor pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of “leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious injury.” Though he faced a maximum of two years in prison, he spent just two years on probation. The emotional toll seemed like a prison sentence in itself. “There was a period after the accident that I didn’t want to get out of bed,” Soules told the Almost Famous podcast (via People). “There was no hope left in life for me. I was severely depressed and scared. There was nothing left to live for.”

Inside Bachelor In Paradise's sexual misconduct scandal

Sometimes paradise is far from it. If there’s one scandal that’s marred the Bachelor franchise forever, it’s the sexual misconduct allegations that almost ended Bachelor In Paradise. According to Variety, production of Season 4 came to an immediate halt after a “filmed sexual encounter” between Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson raised questions. Warner Bros. immediately launched an internal investigation as behind-the-scenes rumors ran wild.

Per TMZ, a producer “filed a formal complaint” after the pair stripped down and got sexual in a swimming pool following a day of drinking, but the entire investigation hinged on one major question: were Corinne and DeMario too drunk to consent? The reports were mixed. Some sources claimed that “everything was fine” between DeMario and Corinne, and others were disturbed by the lack of producer intervention.

Things got muddier when the Daily Mail published a crew member’s account, which claimed that Corinne appeared to be unconscious and “sliding under water” while DeMario had intercourse with her. Nonetheless, the investigation found no wrongdoing, and DeMario later told The Hollywood Reporter that racism fanned the flame. “They wanted the angry black guy and this little, innocent white girl. But it wasn’t,” he said.

Corinne later admitted to ET that “no one was in the wrong” during the “heartbreaking” incident. Her memory loss occurred because she mixed alcohol with prescription pills. According to TMZ, the event led to a new rule where contestants must have a producer’s permission before getting down.

Bachelor Nation star Jed Wyatt's secret girlfriend

In hindsight, Jed Wyatt exhibited some major red flags — mainly in the shape of an acoustic guitar. No man, save for John Mayer, needs to publicly wield a guitar as much as Wyatt did on Hannah Brown’s Bachelorette season. It was so egregious that Us Weekly made a comprehensive supercut of every single time he shoved his guitar in front of the camera. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the musician was using The Bachelorette as a vehicle to promote his music career. He even admitted as much, and Hannah heard, but she did not listen.

Remember that list of Hannah Brown’s mistakes we spoke about? Jed Wyatt earns one of the top spots. After the country crooner won the series, news of his alleged secret girlfriend surfaced. According to People, he was reportedly dating Nashville-based singer Haley Stevens for months before he left to film the ABC show. “He told me [early on] that he had applied,” Haley told People in a bombshell exclusive. “He said, ‘It’s probably not going to happen, but it’s a huge opportunity. I’m only doing this for my music.’ He only did it for his career.”

In the wake of the news, Hannah ended up breaking their engagement and attempted to romance her backup, Tyler Cameron (who, probably rightly, didn’t bite). Today, Jed hasn’t shaken the stigma of his Bachelor villain status, but he’s still strumming his acoustic guitar anyway.

Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s grueling unedited breakup

Bachelor breakups are bad enough when they’re edited, but Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s unexpected breakup with Season 22 winner Becca Kufrin gets the rose. Mere weeks after Becca accepted his proposal, he ended their engagement to be with runner-up Lauren Burnham. This wasn’t just any breakup. According to People, it was billed as the “first completely unedited scene in reality television history,” and Bachelor Nation had to endure all 40 minutes of televised misery, or as producers would probably put it, the perfect finale. It was so uniquely awful that Glamour published a full transcription and rightly called Arie “the worst” in their recap.

Today, Arie and Lauren are still together and expecting twins, so it’s safe to say that the pain was — in Bachelor Nation terms — part of his journey, but it definitely didn’t do any favors for his public opinion. In an interview, where GQ described him as “the most hated bachelor in America,” he claimed producers pitched the unedited breakup as a way for Bachelor Nation to see his true heart. He couldn’t help his feelings and was trying to respectfully do the right thing after he made the wrong decision. Instead, he was reportedly “100 percent” betrayed. “It was completely edited,” Arie said.

By now, Becca has moved on — even breaking off an engagement to someone else — but Bachelor Nation has not, and probably never will. Sorry, Arie.

Chad Johnson got booted from paradise

Reality TV seems like an anything goes environment where contestants are pumped full of alcohol and have little to do but endlessly bicker — at least until it isn’t. Chad Johnson is a rare case where it went too far. The contestant, who spent much of his time on JoJo Fletcher’s Bachelorette season pumping iron as his veins protruded, already appeared to be a walking red flag before he joined Season 3 of Bachelor In Paradise. According to People, he regularly hurled violent threats at castmates like, “I’m gonna cut everyone here’s legs off and arms off.” On BiP, he lasted one seemingly unhinged episode, where he threatened to decapitate Evan Bass, before Chris Harrison booted him for “verbally abusive” behavior.

The full breadth of his anger issues took time to unfold. According to TMZ, Chad was arrested in February 2020 for “felony domestic violence and robbery” after an incident with his girlfriend, Annalise Mishler, which he attributed to a relapse. Days later, he was hospitalized for a “possible suicide threat.” Chad ultimately took a plea deal and is trying to put his arrest behind him. Today, he appears to have mended his relationship with Annalise, who’s helping him pursue a career as an adult film star.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse and mental health, please contact SAMHSA’s 24-hour National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Rozlyn Papa's romp with a Bachelor Nation producer

Everyone is on The Bachelor to find love (unless, of course, you’re looking to film a commercial for your music career). Still, aside from the official Bachelor rulebook, no one ever said that romance had to be solely with the cast. Love comes from all kinds of places, but it probably shouldn’t come from a producer if you want to stay in the mansion.

In 2010, contestant Rozlyn Papa rocked Season 14 after Chris Harrison got wind of her alleged illicit affair with a producer. Admittedly, the word affair is dramatic. It was so early on in the filming process that she probably didn’t even get to speak to Jake Pavelka more than a handful of times, but it was enough of a transgression that Harrison booted her from the series. According to People, she claimed the pair were “good friends,” but Harrison had receipts. “She had a physical relationship with a producer on our show,” the longtime host told People. “You cannot do that. There is no gray area … Other girls on the show saw it. The producer confessed more than once and to more than one person. I cannot make it any clearer.”

Alright, but hear us out: maybe she had to leave because won the series. You find love (or lust, if you want a cheap alternative) and you’ve completed your Bachelor journey, right?

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