Tuesday's Bachelor in Paradise finally dealt with the incident between contestants Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson that led to production getting shut down for a week in June. Host Chris Harrison sat the returning contestants down for a conversation about what happened, how everyone was feeling about returning to a show that had been shut down over sexual misconduct allegations (that in the eyes of Warner Bros. and ABC have been settled) and consent.
Critics were unsatisfied with how the return was handled, with the strongest condemnation coming from Vulture's Ali Barthwell, who called it "one of, if not the most, egregious and irresponsible discussions about sexual assault I have ever seen."
But in an interview with Variety the day after it aired, Chris Harrison made it clear that he does not care what "the media" thinks. Harrison voiced his disgust with outlets who published untrue things — he does not say what things — about Corinne, DeMario and the show.
"What really astounded me was the level of incompetence — things that were said and printed by quote-unquote reputable media, and reputable print, and even TV," he said. "It was incredible to me the things that were said out loud about Corinne, about DeMario, about the show that were so outlandish, so false, and completely fabricated. There are people's lives in the balance that could have easily been destroyed. The fact that you can clearly see that journalism is dead, and long gone on every level — whether it's the network, whether it's print ... it's really sad. To see it firsthand it really is amazing."
Harrison defended the show's choice to not show the supposedly totally above-board encounter between Olympios and Jackson, which could settle once and for all any questions about what went down.
"All of it was agreed upon — and I think in everyone's best interest — that we didn't show it. There was nothing to be gained from showing it. I stand behind that decision 100%. I think we will show enough for everyone to form their opinion," he said.
Here's the thing, though: Chris Harrison has been promising that viewers will get a satisfactory explanation about what happened, and this episode made satisfaction seem even less likely by how poorly the discussion of the Corinne and DeMario situation was handled. The show is asking for us viewers to trust it, but by not showing us the footage even though it has it, combined with its glib handling of racism and sexual assault allegations and consent in the episode, it is not earning our trust, even though probably nothing really bad happened.
The only hope I have for my troubled mind to be assuaged is Olympios and Jackson's interviews with Harrison, which will air during the next two weeks. "You will see both Corinne and DeMario get the opportunity to separately sit down with me and give their sides of the story," Harrison said. "I told them: This is your chance to say whatever you want ... no holds barred... go. This is your forum."
But using very recent history as an indicator, I am not optimistic about Chris Harrison's journalistic abilities.
Bachelor in Paradise airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8/7c.