Chris Harrison: ‘Bachelorette’ Almost Shut Down

Ashley and Bentley on The Bachelorette (ABC)

Ashley and Bentley on The Bachelorette (ABC)

The season’s barely getting started, but ‘Bachelorette’ contestant Bentley Williams is already causing quite a ruckus with his sadistic comments about Ashley Hebert—who is foolishly head over heels for him. But if you think what he’s been spouting off so far is pretty evil, he’s just getting warmed up. On next Monday’s episode, the 28-year-old investment banker plans on exiting the show – but not before saying a few shocking words to Ashley that’ll rip her heart into shreds and haunt her for the rest of the season. Seriously, where does ABC find these guys?

Needless to say, we were eager to chat with host Chris Harrison and ask him a slew of questions about this seemingly unconscionable villain. In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, he dished out the goods:

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When did you know Bentley was bad news?
I thought he was going to be trouble the moment Ashley told me he was going to be trouble. I’ll go a little bit deeper. I usually try to walk that fine gray line of host/friend/confidant, but when you have information before the guy even gets out of the limo, that is beyond a red flag…she was so anti everything she had done on Brad’s season…This season she kind of threw caution to the wind and did the opposite. We actually gave her the option before the limo pulled up—you don’t have to meet this guy. She said, “No, I want to meet him. If I don’t like this guy, I’ll kick him off.” She made the decision to go forward.

What went through your mind when Ashley saw Bentley come out of the limo?
When Bentley arrived and I saw Ashley’s face, I leaned over to one of the producers and said, “We’re in trouble.” Her reaction to Bentley reminded me of my kids. When you tell your kids they can’t or shouldn’t have something, what’s the first thing they’re going to do when they see it? Want it even more! Ashley was clearly taken with Bentley at first glance, and the time they spent talking only solidified her feelings and made her feel that the warning she got about him was bogus. She said on night one he was definitely one of the front-runners. As you saw in the previews this is far from over, and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Watch Bentley’s Derogatory Comments On This Week’s “Bachelorette”:

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If Bentley was so bent on Emily Maynard being the Bachelorette, why was he cast in the first place?
He obviously didn’t say all those derogatory things in casting. He obviously didn’t say, “If it’s Ashley, I’m going to use her and destroy her.” He wasn’t that open and forthright in casting. We are casting all the time, even while we’re shooting. I don’t get involved in the casting for many reasons, but I never saw any of his stuff. I really didn’t.

Was he scripted as the villain?
Couldn’t be further from the truth. We didn’t put this guy in there. People give us too much credit, and it doesn’t turn out to be a good thing for Ashley or for us, and we almost had to shut down production. This made her question everything—the rest of the guys, herself, if doing the show was worth it. It was rough for her, but it was rough for us to keep her on track.

What kept you from showing her the footage of him saying all of those nasty things about her?
Maybe if this had gone any further—you have to understand, too, we’re only two weeks in this— things had just started getting out of hand and him saying all these things. If it had gone on longer, I don’t know the steps we would’ve taken, if we would’ve finally shown her these things. She was privy to a lot of information and a lot of what we thought. Some of the producers had told her this guy’s not good for you, and I had told her some things. She had so much more information, more than Ali or Jillian ever had about Justin or Wes…she had that information, she had everything she needed, but she always wanted to believe the good in the guy.

Some of Bentley’s buds are saying that he was edited to look like a jerk.
You can’t splice together when you see somebody like that. And honestly, you can’t really take the things he said out of context. Even in joking they’re not appropriate. You don’t talk about a woman like that. I would love to hear what his friends have to say about the stunt he pulls when he’s leaving because I think that is worse than anything he says before.

Preview Monday’s Episode:

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Do you think it was kosher to air Bentley’s “tickle my pickle” comment?
I think you’ve gotta see what the guy said. If it upsets someone’s sensibilities or if it went too far, as far as any of our fans are concerned, I do apologize for that. But this is what this guy was saying. This was what he thought of Ashley. I think in true context you need to see what this guy was about and what his game was. Ashley didn’t get to see or hear a lot of that…you really had to show both sides to show exactly just how bad it was and how badly she’s going to have the rug ripped out from under her on Monday night.

How hard was it to watch the drama unfold?
Really hard. She’s a friend of mine. This is one of the things I find fascinating about how—where I’m no longer a host—I’m a friend, and I’m about to watch someone have their heart broken. Now all I can do is stand by and watch it and be there for her when it happens. This isn’t just TV; this happens in life all the time. You just have to be there for them…You’ll see in the deliberation Monday night, it was very much not a deliberation. This was a friend walking in to pick up the pieces of another friend who had just had her heart ripped apart.

Why do you think she was so into him?
She never really could answer that. Is it the bad boy? Was it, I wanna fix him? Is it the mother syndrome? Maybe it was a little bit of all of that. I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I found it very perplexing myself. What do you see in this guy? He’s bad news; he’s going to hurt you. But he was so smooth, so caring around her, she never got to see his true colors, and eventually, he was able to use that and crush her.

What does she think of him now?
She called me last week and said, “I can’t believe all these things. I feel like such a fool and so played.” Again, this is hindsight. She’s seeing him for who he really is. It’s funny, she said, “Why didn’t you say something?” “Ashley, I did.” And she’d say, “I know.” That’s the way it works. When you’re friends with someone, that’s all you can do. Let them fall on their face, then give them a big hug, pick them up, and move on.

Is there anything you’d like to say to him at the “Men Tell All”?
I have a son and I have a daughter, and I can’t fathom treating a woman like that anyway, but much less someone who has a daughter. I really hope he comes back to the “Men Tell All,” not so I can rip him apart, but so I can hear his explanation. Can you imagine a man treating your daughter that way? I’d love to hear his response. I don’t know what his end game was or what his motivations were. Things he said and things he did really cross the line of decency, as far as I’m concerned.

Catch all of the drama this Monday on ABC at 8/7c.

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