TV & Movies

Bachelor Host Jesse Palmer Weighed In On The Big Clayton-Susie Blowup

“Clayton never saw that coming.”

Clayton Echard & Jesse Palmer at the 'The Bachelor: Women Tell All' taping via ABC's press site
ABC/Craig Sjodin

As Bachelor host Jesse Palmer pointed out, “multiple Bachelors and Bachelorettes ... have slept with three people on their seasons,” but the backlash surrounding Clayton Echard’s fantasy suite dates was decidedly swift, nevertheless. In a new Variety interview, Palmer defended Clayton’s decision to be intimate with both Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey — even though the confession led to his third finalist, Susie Evans, going home.

“Having been on the show and having been in this position, I think it’s important to know if you have sexual compatibility or not,” Palmer, who also previously starred as ABC’s Season 5 Bachelor in 2004, recently explained to Variety, before also conceding, “On the other side, if the Bachelor or Bachelorette already knows in their mind who they are going to pick in the end, I do think you have to be careful about sleeping with other people, because it can get you in trouble.”

However, the deeper issue for many fans was less that Clayton slept with multiple contestants (and also told all three he was in love with them), and more that viewers believed he was gaslighting Susie prior to her shocking elimination. After Clayton revealed to Susie that he was officially in love with her, she raised concerns about pursuing an engagement with someone who had shared those same feelings for at least two other women simultaneously. The Season 26 lead soon flipped the script — essentially placing the blame in Susie’s hands for not telling him ahead of time that that would be a deal-breaker for her — and sent her home in tears.

“I think people are also upset about the tone of that conversation,” Palmer added to Variety. “I was there, and it was very emotional. Clayton never saw that coming. He was so excited to tell Susie he was in love with her, and I know he had such strong feelings for her. He was really excited for that night to happen, and he had no idea that Susie was struggling so much emotionally with seeing the other women coming home [from their overnight dates] and having that realization of how real that was, and having to balance her own perspective and her own values and morals.”

Now, Clayton is “getting beaten up on social media,” as Palmer put it, and the host can see both sides of the debate over Susie’s so-called delayed ultimatum: “I think that’s what makes this situation so compelling — there are so many different opinions, and there is no obvious right or wrong answer, in my opinion. I think that’s why social media is blowing up right now.”

After the March 8 episode aired, Clayton, for his part, insisted he was not gaslighting Susie. “It’s tough because I’ve seen what everyone’s saying and they’re using some pretty descriptive terms, some pretty heavy-hitting terms that I couldn’t disagree with more,” Clayton said on Ben Higgins and Ashley Iaconetti’s Almost Famous podcast. “But I understand that it appears that way. I don’t agree that I was gaslighting because I looked that up, and it said gaslighting, the definition is to try and convince someone of a different reality than what is actually the true reality of the situation. ... Gaslighting in my eyes is something where it’s you have bad intentions, you’re trying to manipulate somebody, and I was not at all trying to do that. My reality was in my head at that point.”

During the same interview, Clayton, who’s now taking a break from social media, also explained that he had feared that Susie was just trying to become the next Bachelorette. “At that point, I started looking at her as if she was playing me the entire time,” he shared. “And that’s why I said, ‘I don’t even know who I’m looking at anymore.’ Because in that moment I really believed at that point that she was just feeding me whatever she needed to so that she could be the next Bachelorette.”

Regardless, there’s still plenty of drama left to unfold in The Bachelor’s two-part finale, including some theories that Susie will return to the show. “There’s always a chance. Never say never,” Palmer teased in his Variety interview. “But what I can say is that your jaw is going to be on the floor. Our jaws were on the floor in real-time watching it.”