10:58am PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelorette' Contestant Says Race Played a Factor in 'Bachelor in Paradise' Controversy
Now that Bachelor in Paradise has resumed filming, one of the contestants on The Bachelorette is speaking out on how he believes race played a factor in the conversations about DeMario Jackson sparked by the controversy.
Will Gaskins, 28, who is currently a contestant on Rachel Lindsay's Bachelorette, knows Jackson from filming together on the ABC reality series. Jackson, who was eliminated in the show's third week, and Bachelor star Corinne Olympios are the two main parties at the center of the firestorm that has been surrounding the ABC franchise.
Gaskins, who has also intervened in the ongoing racially charged dispute playing out on The Bachelorette, believes that race played a factor in the probe that temporarily suspended production on the upcoming fourth season of Paradise. Before producers Warner Bros. Television announced on Tuesday that their internal investigation found no evidence of the alleged misconduct first reported by a producer on the show's Mexico set, the now-national news story had raised questions about consent. The alleged sexual encounter that was being investigated happened between Jackson, a black contestant, and Olympios, a white contestant, and each had been drinking heavily.
"I have largely tried to stay out of the drama," began Gaskins, a sales manager in Miami, in a lengthy post to his Instagram account. "I'm glad that from abc's [sic] perspective this matter is closed and that is certainly a step In the right direction. But that is not the end of this story. A lot of conversation has gone back and forth and accusations have flown regarding consent and the ability to give it, primarily from one direction."
Gaskins cited reports that Olympios had engaged in "some type of physical contact" with "multiple" other people while on the set of Paradise. Jasmine Goode, also a contestant on Paradise, was one of the eye witnesses who has since spoken out about Olympios' alleged on-set behavior.
"But it wasn't until The black man [sic] got into the mix that this was deemed as no longer acceptable," Gaskins wrote.
He continued, "We can lie to ourselves and say that race isn't a factor here and pretend that it doesn't affect our day to day lives but it's just that, a lie. It has hurt me these past few weeks seeing someone who I consider a friend get dragged left and right."
Attorney Priya Sopori had previously noted to THR that sexual stereotypes can lead the public to place blame without having all the facts, and says race is likely a factor here too.
“There have been questions raised, and I think rightly so, as to why any contestant would believe she was capable of informed consent with a variety of men and then not capable of informed consent with an African-American male,” she adds, echoing the concerns raised by Gaskins. “I think there are many people who are bothered by that allegation.”
Ahead of WBTV's announcement that Paradise would resume filming, Jackson sought legal counsel due to his character being "assassinated" and losing his job, as an executive recruiter, in the aftermath. Olympios hired a top Hollywood litigator and after saying in a statement, "I am a victim," she and her attorney, Marty Singer, have since announced that they will continue their own investigation despite WBTV's findings.
"None of you got to know or see Demario the way that those of us in the house did," wrote Gaskins. "If you had you would know that he is one of the most straight forward and caring ppl you could ever care to know ... I hope that in the coming days, hours and months that he will continue to be vindicated of any wrongdoing and his name will no longer be associated with such a despicable act." Gaskins closed with the hashtag "#freedemario." (Read the full post here.)
With most of the original season four cast now headed back to Mexico, it is unclear whether Jackson, or Olympios, will return. As THR reported, filming is set to begin this weekend, with most of the returning cast traveling back to the Sayulita resort at the end of this week. Neither Jackson or Olympios has yet been asked to return, as producers are still locking in the full cast. While it seems unlikely that Olympios will be returning, reports about whether or not Jackson will head back to the show are conflicting. (Jackson declined to comment.)
If Jackson does decide to return, he will likely get a forum to address the controversy and tell his side of events. Sources tell THR producers are currently in discussion about how the show will address the situation when it returns. ABC confirmed the show will be airing this summer and as THR reported, both producers and the network have every incentive to meet the slated Aug. 8 premiere date, or as close to it as possible.
Ashley Cullins contributed to this report.