9:24am PT by Jackie Strause
'The Bachelorette' Couple Defends Relationship After Instagram Scandal
The Bachelorette winner faced a round of questions about his social media behavior and personal beliefs when he came out as a couple with reality star Becca Kufrin on Tuesday.
Garrett Yrigoyen, who proposed to Kufrin on Monday's finale of ABC's The Bachelorette, emerged as a controversial winner of the long-running franchise after an off-air Instagram scandal shadowed his and Kufrin's onscreen journey. Shortly after the May 28 premiere of Kufrin's cycle, news broke that Yrigoyen, a sales rep from Reno, Nevada, had liked several memes espousing offensive rhetoric.
At the time, the then contestant posted a statement to his Instagram account in which he apologized and took responsibility for the "hurtful" posts that he liked, saying he "never realized the power behind a mindless double tap on Instagram."
The live post-finale show, After the Final Rose, however, was the first time Yrigoyen was able to fully address the controversy. Host Chris Harrison asked Yrigoyen, 29, and Kufrin, 28, about their relationship after the cameras stopped rolling, prompting Yrigoyen to bring up the scandal and elaborate on his statement. Yrigoyen said he was trying to grow as a person with the help of his new fiancee. Kufrin, sitting by his side, said she doesn't condone his social media history, but that the pair want to learn from the mistake and move forward together. The special never mentioned the details of the scandal, which left many confused viewers taking to Twitter with questions.
The posts that Yrigoyen had liked on social media mocked undocumented immigrants, the transgender community, liberal feminists and spread misinformation about Parkland, Florida, shooting survivor David Hogg, among other subjects. They also stood in sharp contrast with those of Kufrin, who had supported Hillary Clinton and the Women's March.
On Tuesday, after a light-hearted appearance on Live With Kelly and a more hard-hitting stop at Good Morning America, both on ABC, the newly engaged reality stars answered lingering questions from the previous night. Speaking to reporters, including The Hollywood Reporter, on a conference call, Yrigoyen explained why he followed the Instagram accounts in the first place.
"I originally followed that account because I’m a patriotic guy and I love my country and I support everybody in the military. That’s why I initially followed them and that was it," he said of @the4thamerican and @mericasupplyco. "I’m starting to read the posts now and go from there, whereas before I would kind of scroll through and double-tap the images. Now, I’m reading into things before I’m supporting them. ... I’m just paying attention to the things that I’m liking and going from there."
Yrigoyen went on to say that he was offended by the content he was supporting, once he understood. Specifically, he said he does not believe in the posts that took aim at the transgender community, Hogg or NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and anthem protests. "No, I don’t believe David Hogg is a crisis actor," he clarified. "I don’t think a lot of people know, but Colin Kaepernick and I were friends in college. We went to the same college together. I really liked him in college and it still stands that way today." He added, "I grew up in a very open family that was welcoming of everyone and I still stand by that today, as I’m open and accepting of everybody."
Kufrin summed up, "When you use social media to create a judgment about somebody, that’s just a small sampling. In this specific case with Garrett, I got to know who he is truly as a person so I can only hope people do that, not only for me and Garrett and our relationship, but for everyone they encounter."
THR then sat down with the pair to dig deeper into what Yrigoyen has learned about himself and how his and Kufrin's potentially differing views have impacted their relationship.
"I’ve always considered myself to be an open-minded person, accepting of everybody. I love everybody. I'm a genuine guy," he told THR (watch in the video player, above). "I learned that social media was almost defining who I was. I feel like it was almost attacking my character by some of the labels that were being put up against my name. That was very hurtful towards me, so I feel like I now saw the other side of the story from other people, where my likes were offending them and hurting them and I realize I was doing the wrong thing and making those mistakes. And I don’t ever want to do that again."
Yrigoyen credited Kufrin for educating him as their courtship continued off-camera. "She’s helping me grow and become better because she’s so understanding, not only of me but of other peoples’ views as well," he said. "She helps me see that side of things and it helps me say, 'Oh, I didn’t understand that that’s what could have happened or come from it.' She helps me see that and get past it and move forward."
Kufrin continued to defend their relationship, shedding light on some of the private conversations they had after getting engaged and how she has watched Yrigoyen evolve. "It was part of our story and something we’ve talked about really since we first got engaged and were not filming any longer," she said. "He has been great about wanting to push himself, wanting to educate himself, and learn and grow in a positive way. That’s something that I look for in a partner. We all make mistakes, we’ve all screwed up in the past and we’ve all done something to offend somebody at some point. All I could ask for in a relationship is that people recognize that and they can admit fault when it happens and say, 'Look, I was in the wrong but I want to move forward, I want to better myself.' And that’s what he’s done."
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette avoids airing conversations surrounding political beliefs. Kufrin has admitted that her relationship with Yrigoyen took longer to develop than that of her runner-up, Blake Horstmann, and Yrigoyen said that their end-of-the-season trip to Thailand was when they connected during conversations that didn't make it to air.
"When we got to Thailand, we got to spend some extra time with one another," he said. "We got to know each other on a deeper level and that’s when my love for her grew even stronger. I knew, even though we didn’t see eye to eye on necessarily everything, we can still find a common ground and work through it with one another." Kufrin added, "I have things that are really important to me in my life, and he does, too. There are questions and conversations that I knew I needed to have to get to the next point in any relationship. You’re trying to condense everything into a two-hour show each week, so there’s so much that happens on a daily basis that no one will ever see."
One conversation that was left on the cutting-room floor was a recorded reunion with her ex, former Bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. Though Kufrin teased his return ahead of the season, and Luyendyk flew out to the Maldives with his fiancee, Lauren Burnham, the moment never made it to air. "The conversation was brief and it was us wishing each other the best and moving on in our lives," said Kufrin, adding that she is "indifferent" about the moment being cut.
Now, Kufrin and Yrigoyen are mulling options for where they plan to settle down — leaning toward Los Angeles — and while they haven't made any long-term plans, they aren't ruling out a return to the franchise with a TV wedding down the line. As for who should be the next Bachelor, Yrigoyen's vote goes to Jason Tartick, who placed third on Kufrin's season.
And despite their love story being rocked by the off-air controversy, both Kufrin and Yrigoyen feel that the ABC franchise should not change its rule about letting the lead have access to the internet or social media throughout the process.
"One thing that I loved was to be able to get to know [the contestants] away from social media, away from having your cellphone or TV or all the added distractions," Kufrin said. "You remove all of that and it’s really just face-to-face interactions, conversations; being able to get to know people for who they really are. People are really quick to make judgments off of a handful of things that they see on the internet. So I was just trying to stay open the entire journey and I feel like I want that to still continue outside of it now, too."
Yrigoyen added, "Here’s the thing, I obviously get it, I made mistakes. But our relationship was built on a solid, sound foundation that was very organic. I feel like her and I are each other’s person, and if she had explored my Instagram and seen that initially, she might have missed out on that."
Watch the couple's interview with THR in the player, above, and head here for more Bachelor Nation coverage.