Chris Harrison has explained why he let Demi Burnett and Kristian Haggerty stay on Bachelor in Paradise, even though Haggerty hadn't been a prior cast member. Burnett's relationship with Haggerty is groundbreaking in being the first same-sex relationship the franchise has featured, and Harrison knew it was an opportunity that couldn't be passed up.
Burnett had been struggling throughout season six of Bachelor in Paradise with a past relationship back home while she pursued love with Derek Peth in Mexico. She eventually came out to friends, and Peth, on the show about being sexually fluid. She initially told Peth that she'd been casually dating someone before flying out to Paradise, but she soon realized that what she felt for Haggerty was something she didn't want to let go. This resulted in Burnett breaking up with Peth. Harrison then surprised Burnett when Haggerty showed up to greet her. Though Haggerty was hesitant at first to fully commit to Burnett because of her past romance with Peth, the two went on a date and reconciled.
Harrison, in an interview with THR, said, "When this situation presented itself to us with somebody we really love and care about in Demi, I think our initial instinct was the right one: 'Let’s lean into it. Let’s go there. Let’s explore this.'" He admitted that in years past, the show might have had a different reaction, but that bringing in someone new was an opportunity to break the "rules" and present a more "modern, evolved version" of the series. Haggerty is only the second Bachelor Nation newbie to join Bachelor in Paradise, following Ashley Iaconetti Haibon's sister Lauren Iaconetti on season two.
When Burnett introduced Haggerty to the rest of the cast, she told them, "I wanted to come to Paradise to get some clarity on everything and figure out where my heart was, and my heart is here. And so we're going to stay in Paradise." In response to the move, GLAAD head of talent Anthony Ramos said to THR, "Tens of millions of people around the world watch The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchises and this move to include a same-sex relationship in an honest fashion has the power to upend preconceived notions of LGBTQ people like Demi who are attracted to more than one gender."
While the decision to allow Haggerty to be a part of the cast rather than sending Burnett home proved to be controversial among the fans and even several alums of the show, it's important for the series to embrace all types of love. If Bachelor in Paradise were a sport, it may be unfair to introduce someone to the cast who had never been involved with the franchise before. But it's not. It's a television show made purely for our entertainment, and if that allows certain audience members to learn more about what a romantic relationship between two women in 2019 looks like, then that makes all the backlash worth it.
Bachelor in Paradise airs Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm on ABC.