Was There a Right Way to Handle the Bachelor in Paradise Scandal?

We take a closer look at how Bachelor in Paradise and ABC handled the scandal that caused production to shut down on June 11, including the sitdown interviews with Corinne and DeMario

By Tierney Bricker Sep 12, 2017 3:54 PMTags
Watch: Chris Harrison on How "BIP" Handled the DeMario-Corinne Scandal

"The cloud has cleared," Corinne Olympios said. "It's now sunny."

Three months after news of the production shutdown on the fourth season of Bachelor in Paradise broke, Corinne and DeMario Jackson spoke to each other for the first time since their sexual encounter on the first day of filming caused two producers to file misconduct complaints, leading Warner Bros. to launch an official two-week long investigation. And their first sitdown, of course, was filmed by ABC as part of the season four reunion special "to put a bow" on the situation, according to Chris Harrison

While the show was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by Warner Bros., no one expected Bachelor in Paradise to resume filming. But BIP did indeed come back, with viewers wondering if the Corinne-DeMario situation would at all be addressed following the two-week break in filming.  

Now, some are wondering if the scandal was overly addressed, used to promote the season and then to help fill out paper-thin episodes after finding the loss of production days made making four hours of television a week less fun than the endless number of crabs wreaking havoc on the beach in Mexico. 

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From the start, the show proved moving forward from the scandal would be no easy task. 

Ahead of the season premiere on Aug. 15, ABC received some backlash after the first, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, promo for the season used the scandal, and the social media reaction to it, to promote its return. It was not received well and ABC later pulled the promo.

"That was a really tricky line to balance. We may have misjudged it," Robert Mills, senior vice president of ABC programming, reality and alternative, admitted in an interview with THR. "I also think that if we had done a promo that embraced more comedy, we maybe would have been called out for sweeping things under the rug."

But the rugs over at the palapa, where the incident between Corinne and DeMario occurred, are definitely clean, as the show is definitely not sweeping things under the rug. It used the production shut down to generate additional content throughout BIP's first three weeks on the air, as well as the final segment that aired during last night's reunion special.


The second episode of the season featured Chris Harrison sitting the cast down for a serious conversation, with topics including consent, race and slut-shaming. Some necessary questions were asked, with the cast members speaking candidly about whether or not you can give consent when you're drunk. Many viewers and critics found the conversation, which ended with Harrison asking each person if they'd like to stay in Paradise, problematic. One of the main issues was the lack of a specialist or counselor of some sort on hand to facilitate the conversation. Without having anybody else on stage, BiP allowed a group of twentysomethings (wearing bathing suits), who signed up for a reality dating show, to be the only ones sharing opinions on such sensitive subject matter. 

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ABC/Paul Hebert

"It all came together on the fly because the shutdown was so unexpected that it was, 'OK, how do we address what happened?'" Mills explained of the cast sitdown. "The cast didn't know what was going on. What could we say? What could we not say in relation to the incident? So I think that seemed to be the best thing for us to do, have Chris Harrison sit and talk to the kids about consent and alcohol instruction."

Paradise quickly went back to business as usual...with one exception. Instead of the live after-show, After Paradise, the first three weeks featured a taped in-studio portion, complete with an audience, featuring several cast members sounding off on storylines. Oh, and the highly publicized one-on-one sitdown interviews with Corinne and DeMario (who previously spoke exclusively to E! News). 

"During the investigation, Corinne and DeMario each made statements that happened away from Mexico. We thought it was important for them to go into that in more detail with Chris so they could make sure there was no ambiguity with the statements, and so they could explain more about what they meant," Mills said on EW Radio of the decision to have both former cast members sit down with Harrison. "Corinne, especially, talks about how she used the word 'victim.' She says, 'I used the word 'victim,' but let me explain what that meant.' I think she felt badly about what DeMario went through as well, so you'll see both of them discussing that."

Both interviews ended up only making up roughly less than 1/8th of the two-hour episode they aired during, leaving out some of the questions that viewers were hoping would be answered, especially what specifically happened that caused two producers to file internal complaints. But Chris Harrison opened up about his frustration with the limitations were put on the interviews when we spoke with him after the taping of the reunion special. 

"I feel like we handled the Corinne-DeMario situation the best we could, as forthright, as open, as honest as we can," Harrison told E! News. "I know that's not satisfying to everybody, and trust me, it's not satisfying to me either. That's not how I would produce this, or go about doing those interviews, but people have to understand there are legalities to all of this and there's just certain things I can't say. There are certain things I can't ask. I can't bring out the third party that filed the complaint and take on that person and have that conversation I would love. So within the framework I'm given legally, I feel like we did the best we could."


ABC/Paul Hebert

For Corinne, she admitted she was "nervous" about seeing DeMario for the first time since the scandal broke, but said she felt she has "come to peace" with the situation. (After Warner Bros. cleared production of any misconduct, Corinne's legal team announced that they would be moving forward with their own investigation, which they completed on June 29: "My team's investigation into this matter has now been completed to my satisfaction," Corinne said in a statement.)

"I'm really happy with the way everything was handled and I feel like everything was done in a really organized way, and I just feel really good about it because they made me feel safe," she said.

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But did the show addressing the scandal head-on several times throughout its shortened run this summer have an impact on ratings? Let's take a look.

The season four premiere, which was pushed back a week after the shutdown, attracted the highest premiere ratings ever for BIP when it came to the adults 18-49 demo, scoring a 1.5 rating and 5 million viewers. However, Tuesday's episode, featuring the highly publicized cast sitdown with Harrison, was down from the previous season's first Tuesday installment, notching a 1.1 rating and 3.9 million viewers.

As for the sitdowns with DeMario and Corinne, DeMario's interview, which aired on Aug. 22, interview garnered 3.85 million viewers and a 1.1 demo rating, on-par with the previous Tuesday night installment's ratings. (Curiously enough, Monday's scandal-free episode had 5.6 million viewers and a 1.7 rating.)

Corinne's interview, which aired the following week on Aug. 29,  brought in 4.3 million viewers and a 1.3 in the demo, with Monday's (Aug. 28) installment actually landing the best ratings of the season (5.6 million viewers and a 1.7 demo rating).

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So episodes that weren't underneath the shadow of the scandal actually saw higher ratings, which, of course, could just be a coincidence or it could signal that fans were simply burnt out on the scandal. News of the shutdown broken on June 11, with Corinne and DeMario's sitdown at the finale airing more than two months later, with those 60-plus days filled with what seemed like endless information, interviews and details via sources on the situation.

Even some members of the cast felt the situation played out too long throughout the course of the season.

"What I didn't like about that whole thing is I feel like it was drug out for unnecessary reasons," Wells Adams, who served as the bartender this season, said, "which was like, making people want to stick around and watch."

But for Harrison, the Corinne-DeMario situation needed to be addressed. Well, as much as it could be given the legalities. "If I give us a grade, for what we had to work with, it's a B+."

Ultimately, was there a right way to handle the scandal?

No, and the show proved it.