EXCLUSIVE: Chris Harrison on Why Luke Pell Isn't The Bachelor: 'Sincerity Is Huge to Us'

The longtime 'Bachelor' host tells ET 'there's a reason' producers went with Nick Viall.

Chris Harrison is speaking out on reports that Nick Viall was chosen to be the Bachelor in a last-minute decision over Luke Pell. ET's Nancy O'Dell sat down with the host the morning after the Bachelor in Paradise finale as he prepared to host Miss America Sunday night. 

“Luke was definitely the frontrunner,” Harrison admits. “It’s not an indictment on Luke that he's not the Bachelor. That doesn’t make him a bad guy. We can just only have one person and, at the end of the day, it’s very important for us to have someone who is sincere. Who is sincerely going to go through this and, I hate to be cliche, for the right reasons try to find love?”

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So does that mean Pell didn’t have good intentions when it came to being the Bachelor? He appeared to be a solid guy on JoJo Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette; Pell didn’t have problems with any fellow cast members. But a source tells ET he may have been pushing too much for his own aspirations when it came to his Bachelor future. “All Luke asked about and seemed to care about when planning his role as the Bachelor was his country music career,” the source says. 

Pell’s country career wasn’t a focus on Fletcher’s season. Instead, he was painted as a sexy military veteran. (In fact, fellow contestant James Taylor got lots of country music cred.) But ET was on hand for Fletcher’s very first group date at fire academy. At the time, Pell introduced himself as an “entrepreneur /songwriter.” He also joked he’d “write a whole album” of songs just to impress Fletcher.

Harrison wouldn’t go into exact detail on why Viall was chosen over Pell, but did say this: “If we did make that last-minute decision to go with Nick, there’s a reason … at the end of the day, sincerity is huge to us. … Who’s ready to find love and go on this journey and who might have ulterior motives and might want to go in a different business direction with all this?”

The longtime Bachelor host says he doesn’t think Pell is a bad person, and could even see him going on Bachelor in Paradise next season (the show was just renewed for a fourth season) or as the Bachelor in the future. He also noted that having multiple candidates in contention for the Bachelor is typical. “Nick became the frontrunner a little later in the game probably than normal,” he adds. “Casting was probably leaning towards Luke … [but] we have a wide range [of possible contestants], and we don’t narrow it down until we head closer to production.”

Luke Pell Speaks Out on Losing ‘The Bachelor’ to Nick Viall: ‘It Was a Huge Surprise’ 

Production on The Bachelor will begin in a matter of weeks, and Harrison notes that ultimately, the Bachelor selection is made by several key people. “It goes through [creator] Mike Fleiss, the president of ABC,” he says. “There’s a long range of chefs that taste the dish.”

ET has reached out to Pell for comment about whether his country music aspirations played a role in the decision to make Viall the Bachelor. ABC had no comment. ET did speak to Pell last week just after Viall was announced as the Bachelor; the Texas native told us he was “blindsided,” and that he didn’t find out he wouldn’t be the Bachelor until he was on his way to Los Angeles to make the announcement on After Paradise. Pell said he was even checked in for his flight.

“I finally … got to the point where I felt like everyone had agreed to a contract,” Pell shared. “All the strategy and the plans were in the making for how the season would unfold … Sometimes with this business, things completely change.”

Harrison also told ET’s Lauren Zima that the idea of starting the season with two possible Bachelors (which was done with Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson) wasn’t an option for Viall and Pell. “That year it was so torn,” he said. “There was this uprising – 50/50 for both. For Nick and Luke, that just doesn’t lend itself to that.”

Harrison can be seen hosting the Miss America pageant Sunday night, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, which premieres Monday on ABC. To see how Viall exited Bachelor in Paradise (hint: in tears), watch our recap below!