"I think he felt an obligation to the show, but there's no contractual obligation there. None," Fleiss told Reality TV World during a media conference call two days after ABC's Monday night broadcast of The Bachelor's thirteenth season finale, which saw Mesnick get engaged to Rycroft but then decide to dump her in favor of runner-up Molly Malaney when the season's After the Final Rose special was taped six weeks later.
Fleiss also that he wasn't aware of Mesnick ever asking any the show's producers to end the relationship off-camera instead. "I never heard that," he told Reality TV World.
According to Fleiss, such a contractual obligation would be "impossible."
"No, there was no contractual obligation, you can check the contract," he added later in the call. "How would you present that in a contract anyways? Like, 'Everything you do with your life must be shown on ABC?' It's impossible. There would be no way to legislate that."
Mesnick had said he was contractually obligated to break-up on-camera with Rycroft during a People magazine interview released Tuesday.
"That was part of the deal. I signed up for it in my contract. Your relationship is -- good and bad -- in front of everybody," he toldPeople.
Fleiss also told Reality TV World that he agreed with Mesnick and The Bachelor host Chris Harrison's recent statements that Rycroft hadn't been blindsided by the break-up.
"They'd been talking and they'd been seeing each other and I think it was clear to both of them that there were problems with the relationship at that point. As I understand it they were all but broken up prior to the show. I don't think she knew that she was going to give him back the ring, but I think she knew that they weren't gonna be together. So she definitely wasn't completely blindsided by the situation."
"She didn't come there thinking that they were all good," he added later. "I mean you can see from the footage when she comes out and they hug that's not a couple that's about to get married. That's a couple that's in danger of breaking up."
Fleiss added later that Rycroft's shock on the show may have been caused more by the revelation that Malaney was involved than that she and Mesnick's relationship was coming to an end.
"It just wasn't working out for them, and she knew it," he told reporters "She didn't know that it was about Molly, I think that was the thing that caught her off-guard."
Fleiss somewhat defended Mesnick's decision, telling Reality TV World that he felt The Bachelor star had tried his best to turn around his relationship with Rycroft before ending it.
"I think he tried to make the relationship work. But who can tell another man how long he should try to make his relationship work. It's certainly not my position," he told Reality TV World.
As for the show's controversial decision to feature Mesnick's breakup with Rycroft on the After the Final Rose special, Fleiss argued that, given the circumstances of the situation, it would not have made sense to hide the breakup from the show's cameras.
"Well, first of all it's a TV show, and that was really the defining moment of the series," Fleiss told reporters. "To not put that on TV seemed strange really when you consider we're making a TV show and these people signed up to do a TV show."
"But the real difference here was that his decision to break up with Melissa involved the other party in the situation which was Molly," he added. "So it was all part of our Bachelor universe so it seemed weird to turn the cameras off for that. We try to tell a complete story, and to have that go on and not let the viewers be part of it would've been a mistake."
Fleiss stated that he had only learned of Mesnick's decision to break it off with Rycroft about 10 days before the After the Final Rose special was taped, and cited the special's subject matter as the reason it didn't feature a studio audience.
"It felt like it would have been a bizarre scene to have a guy breaking up with a girl and then the audience applauding as they go to commercial. That didn't really seem right," he told reporters.
Fleiss also said that Malaney was not told about Mesnick's plans to ask her for a second chance in advance. He added that keeping her in the dark was made somewhat easier by the fact that she had already planned on attending the ceremony as the show's runner-up.
"We said we're going to get an update on everybody and see how everybody's doing or whatnot," Fleiss told reporters. "[We usually do an After the Final Rose every season and the] show was scheduled long before Jason told us that he has having troubles with his relationship with Melissa and that he was in love with Molly... it just took on a very different complexion [once he did]."
Fleiss added that he didn't personally see a significant difference between televising Mesnick's decision to break it off his relationship with Rycroft, whom he was engaged to at the time, and Malaney, whom he had dumped while The Bachelor was still in production.
"To me, I don't see the difference between breaking up with Molly on TV in New Zealand and breaking up with Melissa on TV in [the studio in] Glendale," he told reporters. "I don't see the difference."
Fleiss told reporters he felt the sudden backlash against Mesnick was likely resulting from TheBachelor star being "immensely popular" with viewers and therefore having the "furthest to fall." He added when he had met with Mesnick and Malaney -- whom he described as "happy as can be" -- on Tuesday night and that Mesnick was standing by the decisions that have made him so suddenly unpopular.
"He kept telling me 'Well what was I gonna do? I was in love with this girl. What was my choice? To not pursue this woman I absolutely adore?'" Fleiss told reporters.
When asked to respond to recent allegations that the show had played a role in Jason's decision to flip-flop on the bachelorette he had chosen, Fleiss stated that The Bachelor's producers had "zero" influence on whom is crowned the show's winner. He also denied that any aspects of Mesnick's situation had been staged or scripted.
"We don't do that, we've never done that and we never will do that," Fleiss said, before adding that the show's finale was an simply the nature of the beast when it came to unscripted television.
"The thing about unscripted television is that it's unpredictable and that's what this was," Fleiss told reporters. "It caught us off guard, it caught the viewers off guard. That's why unscripted television works, that's why it's popular because it doesn't feel padded, it doesn't feel set up like a lot of the scripted shows out there."
As for viewers of the show who have threatened to stop watching the show because of the finale, Fleiss seemed to stop just short of saying "good riddance" to them.
"If you really don't wanna watch, don't watch! It's a TV show and it was big this time and the reaction is big," Fleiss reasoned to reporters. "I know a lot of people who will say it was the best TV they've ever seen in their life, I've been getting a lot of emails and texts saying that. So I'm not really that concerned."
During the call, an ABC spokesperson also addressed the lack of a public response from Rycroft following the After the Final Rose special, saying that she was not contractually obligated to do any media appearances and is currently declining interview requests.
"This was what she wanted," the spokesperson said. "She did a couple of things and that's the way she's leaving it for the moment. Now she may come back and totally decide to talk to people but right now she wanted her space and we're respecting that."
"We just hope she gets over this and finds the right guy out there, she's a terrific girl... I'd venture to say that she's probably the most popular girl in the country right now," added Fleiss, who also seemed confident that Rycroft would eventually make an appearance on one of The Bachelor's future reunion shows.
(Photo credit ABC)
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