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Why The Bachelorette's Kaitlyn Bristowe Understands Fans Not Immediately Embracing New Bachelor Clayton Echard

Clayton Echard is shown on a promo for The Bachelor Season 26.
(Image credit: ABC)

ABC is gearing up for a new season of The Bachelor, and even as we prepare to watch Clayton Echard — a castoff from Michelle Young’s season of The Bachelorette — attempt to find a wife, many fans still don’t exactly know why the Missouri native was chosen. Echard was under intense scrutiny from the Bachelor Nation loyal after news of his casting leaked prior to even his TV introduction to the franchise, and The Bachelorette co-host Kaitlyn Bristowe understands why fans may have been cheering for a lead that wasn't Echard.

The fans’ confusion regarding Clayton Echard stems from the fact that he wasn’t exactly shown a whole lot on The Bachelorette Season 18. He was eliminated after not having the strongest connection with Michelle Young, and his time on the show was overall unremarkable. Meanwhile, as Young fell in love with Nayte Olukoya, America was falling in love with Rodney Mathews, who saw himself as an underdog despite being universally liked by his fellow contestants and viewers at home. Kaitlyn Bristowe told the Here for the Right Reasons podcast (opens in new tab) she thinks Mathews' own fandom, coupled with Echard’s narrative on The Bachelorette, didn’t do the new Bachelor star any favors.

I kept thinking, like, if you’re gonna make him The Bachelor, you gotta show more of him and why he’s gonna be our next Bachelor. Because, I mean, if we’re watching [Michelle Young’s season], we’re rooting for Rodney to be someone to be the Bachelor — someone that we’re like, ’Whoa, we fell love with that person and we’re rooting for them to find love. With Clayton, we’re kinda like, ‘What? Oh, OK.’ And now we’re rooting for him, but we don’t know much about him.

Perhaps if there hadn’t been someone as likable as Rodney Mathews on Michelle Young’s season, Clayton Echard’s casting wouldn’t have been as disappointing to fans. It also highlights one problem with announcing the next lead so quickly, which is that ABC wasn’t able to take fans’ reactions into account. If they’d seen how whole-heartedly Bachelor Nation supported Mathews, would they have still gone with Echard? And if they knew Echard was truly their guy so early on, why didn’t the editors craft episodes differently to show more of Echard's qualities they deemed worthy of leading The Bachelor?

On The Bachelorette Season 18 finale, Kaitlyn Bristowe welcomed Echard on stage to address the backlash to his casting, and as he read viewers' mean tweets, he said he kind of agreed with one tweet calling for Mathews to be The Bachelor, saying maybe it would happen down the road. So if Echard is even admitting he would have loved to see Rodney Mathews as the next Bachelor, something is amiss.

For now, though, Clayton Echard is our guy, and regardless of what you think of him, ABC is promising to bring the drama this season. Check out the preview below:

The Bachelor Season 26 premieres Monday, January 3, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, and it won’t just be the beginning of Clayton Echard’s journey, but also the introduction of new host Jesse Palmer. Palmer, who starred on Season 5 of The Bachelor, was hired to replace Chris Harrison on ABC’s flagship dating show after Harrison was fired in 2020. Be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other shows are coming up soon.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.