Update 3/31/23 at 11 p.m. ET:
Fleiss spoke out in the wake of a Variety report that claimed his exit from the franchise came on the heels of an investigation into alleged racial discrimination and his on-set behavior.
“Since its premiere 21 years ago, times have certainly changed, and I’d have to say we didn’t keep up with the pace of those changes,” Fleiss told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, March 31, two days after his announcement that he was leaving the series. “I am proud of the work we’ve done over the past five years to make the show substantially more diverse, but I do believe I could have done more. Hopefully, the franchise will continue to move in the right direction.”
Ultimately, the franchise creator told THR, he believed he left his post with “more good days than bad, lifted more spirits than hurt feelings” and with “more friends than foe.”
Original story continues below:
His final rose! Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss announced he’s leaving the franchise after more than two decades.
“First and foremost, congratulations are in order for Zach [Shallcross] and Kaity [Biggar],” Fleiss, 58, told Variety in a statement on Tuesday, March 28, referring to the season 27 lead, 26, and his fiancée, 27, after their engagement aired on the Monday, March 27, finale. “I wish them a long and happy life together.”
Fleiss, who launched the ABC series in 2002, went on to confirm his departure as the head of the dating show.
“I want to thank WBTV and ABC for 21 extraordinary years,” he continued. “They’ve found the perfect creative team for me to entrust The Bachelor franchise and keep this lightening in a bottle bold and moving forward. Let the journey continue.”
The California native, who created The Bachelorette in 2003 following the Bachelor’s success, previously stepped back as executive producer and showrunner of the female-led series in 2021. (Season 20 of the Bachelorette premieres later this summer with lead Charity Lawson.)
Moving forward, The Bachelor will be helmed by showrunners Claire Freeland, Jason Ehrlich and Bennett Graebner, according to Variety.
Ahead of his departure, Fleiss made headlines in 2019 for his rocky marriage to Laura Kaeppeler. The Bachelor Winter Games producer raised eyebrows in July of that year when Kaeppler, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child at the time, claimed her husband attacked her at their home in Hawaii and demanded that she get an abortion.
While Fleiss denied the allegations, the twosome called it quits that same month. Kaeppler eventually dropped the assault claims she made against her spouse, and their legal separation was finalized in July 2019.
Four months later, the pair announced that they made amends and were back together. “Happy to report that @FleissLaura and I have reconciled. I love my wife and am grateful for this opportunity to work on our marriage,” Fleiss wrote via Twitter in November 2019. “Thanks for the support, #BachelorNation!”
Fleiss’ marital woes, however, weren’t his only actions called into question that year. In October 2019, former Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe slammed the show’s creator for allegedly blocking her from being able to compete on Dancing With the Stars after her 2015 search for love.
“I’ll tell you exactly why I can’t go on Dancing With the Stars. Anybody that listens to this podcast knows why I cannot go on Dancing With the Stars,” Bristowe, 37, said during an appearance on the “Talkhouse” podcast. “I will say this with a mic in my hand and a smile on my face, that Mike Fleiss is a piece of s—t! He is the creator of The Bachelor, and he hates women.”
The “Off the Vine” podcast host claimed that Fleiss allowed “all the Bachelors” to compete on the dance series but didn’t encourage her to do the same.
“I was bitter for a long time because dancing was, like, a passion of mine. Being told no, just because someone wants to say no to you,” Bristowe exclusively told Us Weekly in October 2019. “If you have the option to crush somebody’s dreams or make it happen and you choose to crush their dreams just ‘cause you have, like, a bitterness towards them and I’m just like, ‘What kind of person are you?’”
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Fleiss, for his part, previously claimed that he had no issue with the Dew Edit designer going on DWTS. “@kaitlynbristowe has my total support if she wants to appear on DWTS,” he wrote via Twitter in March 2017. Bristowe eventually competed on season 29 of DWTS and won the coveted mirrorball trophy in November 2020.
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