11:44am PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelorette' Star Denies Sexual Harassment Claims
A Bachelorette contestant is responding to sexual harassment claims that were circulated on social media by another franchise alum.
"There have been some recent stories about me that have garnered attention and I want to address them," wrote Leo Dottavio in a statement posted to his Instagram story on Friday. "I want to start by saying no one has ever accused me of sexual harassment. No one has ever come to me in any way and told me I made them feel uncomfortable. However, I am not a perfect person nor have I ever claimed to be."
Dottavio, a Hollywood stuntman who made it to the top six finalists on Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette (which airs its finale on Monday), most recently appeared on The Bachelorette: Men Tell All and will also appear on the upcoming summer spinoff Bachelor in Paradise, as is shown in the ABC trailer.
Bekah Martinez, a memorable contestant from Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season of The Bachelor, took to her Instagram account on Aug. 2 to share a series of anonymous claims she has received from other women about Dottavio. On her Instagram story, which she has kept live as one of her Highlight videos, Martinez posted multiple screenshots from different women who have reached out to her claiming that Dottavio has allegedly harassed them or made unwanted sexual advances in the past. Martinez said she discovered the first claim from a show Reddit page.
"I am not a perfect person nor have I ever claimed to be," Dottavio continued in his statement. "Did I do things in college that I would be embarrassed about now? Absolutely. Was I a part of my culture, the times, movies? Yes. I have grown as a person since college. I am not the man I was two years ago, let alone 14 years ago."
Adding, "It's important for women to speak out if they felt uncomfortable or harassed. I support that. If there was anyone I made feel uncomfortable, why not come to me? I would love an opportunity to right my wrongs and speak to any woman that wants to tell me how and when I made them feel uncomfortable. I want to take this as an opportunity to better myself and the treatment of women in my life."
When reached by The Hollywood Reporter, ABC and show producers Warner Bros. TV declined to comment; THR also reached out to Martinez. Before releasing his statement, Dottavio told the New York Post that the original screenshot was photoshopped and that his lawyer would be investigating the situation.
News of Dottavio's alleged behavior comes amid a swirling conversation around the long-running ABC franchise about how the show can better vet contestants in the age of social media.
Most concerning was when news broke that one of Kufrin's contestants, Lincoln Adim, had been convicted of sexual assault. Adim, who remained in the reality dating competition until July 2, was convicted of indecent assault and battery for groping and assaulting an adult female on a harbor cruise ship. The news broke of his conviction while he was still an eligible bachelor on the reality dating show. WBTV said at the time that Adim never disclosed the case when he was cast.
"We’re always diligent, we always do our best to protect everybody and keep everybody safe, and to get the type of people that you would want to be represented on this show," franchise host Chris Harrison, who is also a producer, told THR during the recent Men Tell All taping. The reunion episode did not address any off-air controversies and Harrison said it would be up to Warner Bros. or ABC to announce any forthcoming changes in the show's process.
Harrison also addressed the impact social media is having on the franchise. "I don’t know if anyone’s ready for that kind of spotlight," he said of the contestants. "I don’t think that anybody in this day and age is ready for the mob mentality and that’s what it’s become." Making it clear that Adim is a separate situation, he added: "It is a mob mentality of — you’re guilty, your life is ruined, it’s done, you’re gone. That is the scrutiny that everyone is under."
Dottavio is also the latest in a string of contestants from Kufrin's season who have used social media as a way to address off-air controversies. Most notably, Kufrin's early frontrunner Garrett Yrigoyen came under fire for offensive social media behavior. Yrigoyen, who is one of the final two men left on Kufrin's season, took responsibility for liking a series of Instagram posts that mocked undocumented immigrants, the trans community, liberal feminists and Parkland, Florida, student David Hogg, among other things. He apologized in a social media statement and is expected to elaborate when he appears on Monday's live After the Final Rose special, which traditionally features both the winner and the runner-up.
After the Bachelorette finale on Monday, Bachelor in Paradise then premieres the following night.