Clayton Echard Defends Zach Shallcross After Fantasy Suites

Bachelors stick together. Clayton Echard came to season 27 lead Zach Shallcross’ defense following criticism of his approach to fantasy suites.

The 26-year-old Texas resident raised eyebrows during the Monday, March 20, episode when he vowed not to have sex with his remaining three contestants — Ariel Frenkel, Gabi Elnicki and Kaity Biggar — only to break his promise to himself. After spending an intimate night with Gabi, 25, Zach informed her that he planned to tell the other two women what went down.

The Vermont native, for her part, admitted in a confessional that she would have rather kept the moment private. Kaity, 28, meanwhile, discovered the truth on her fantasy suite — and was visibly frustrated with Zach for airing the details on camera.

Former Bachelor Clayton Echard Defends Zach Shallcross After Fantasy Suite Criticism: 'Give Him Some Grace'

Clayton Echard and Zach Shallcross
Andrew H. Walker/AWNewYork/Shutterstock; ABC/Nino Muñoz

Following the bombshell episode, Clayton, 29 took to his Instagram Story with several videos defending Zach’s actions. “There is no privacy,” he claimed on Tuesday, March 21, of what it’s like to speak to contestants on the ABC dating series. “The only privacy is fantasy suites. Before that [and] after that, there’s zero privacy. You don’t get off-camera time, so that can’t happen.”

The former football player — who had his own rocky fantasy suite journey on season 26 — noted that another “very real concern” for leads is whether to disclose information about their romantic connections with other contestants during filming or after the finale, something he said is never a “win-win” situation.

“That can really put someone in emotional turmoil when they realize, ‘Wait, you didn’t tell me the full story until now? I would have liked to have known beforehand,’” he shared.

Speaking from experience, Clayton added: “You think, ‘OK, well, either I continue to withhold to try to protect everybody, but I may lose someone or two people or three people.’ I found out after the show that almost seven women left — almost seven — because they didn’t know where I was standing. Others almost left for other reasons, but some of them were wondering where I was at [emotionally].”

Clayton pointed out to fans that things are made more difficult when a lead falls for more than one person. Before his season came to an end in March 2022, the 180 Degrees author told his final three contestants — Susie Evans, Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey — that he was in love with them. He also revealed that he was “intimate with” two of the women.

“We’re dating multiple people. It’s a foreign environment for all of us. We’ve never been in it before, so we have no experience to pull from, so how do you do it correctly?” the Missouri native argued. “Everyone’s trying it a little bit different ways, only a few have found success. But with so many variables and different people and personalities, you never know how to approach it, and all you can do is your best.”

Clayton encouraged those being critical of Zach to “give him some grace” but clarified that he didn’t believe what happened on Monday’s episode was completely fair. “When emotions are attached, we act irrational. That is just how it is, and we all can relate to that,” he said. “It’s so easy to be rational when there’s no emotional tie. The second you get an emotional tie, things are not cut and dry, and that’s what we see.”

Bachelor Nation fans were divided after the drama played out, but Gabi explained that she wouldn’t tolerate any hateful messages. Responding to a fan who noticed her deleting Instagram comments, she wrote on Monday, “I am, because I don’t need negativity and hate on my page. It’s so unnecessary and unkind. There is NO reason to put others down, get off my page if you don’t like me.”

The Bachelor season 27 finale airs on ABC Monday, March 27, at 8 p.m. ET.

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