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Gabby and Rachel Respond to Clayton and Susie’s Reaction to ‘The Bachelorette’ Premiere, Bullying Claims (Exclusive)

As Bachelor Nation — and Susie Evans — continue to reel over the Clayton Echard shade during the season 19 premiere of The Bachelorette, Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia are sharing their sides of the story.

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“Of course, no one was ever using his name maliciously or to be mean or bully him,” Rachel, 26, said exclusively on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast after the Monday, July 11, premiere. “We would’ve maybe liked to hear it a little less. I’m sure he would’ve as well, but it was just all kind of in good fun in a way to try to connect with us since the only time [the contestants] ever saw us was on his season.”

Gabby, 31, added that the two leads “understand” if Clayton and Susie didn’t love all of the digs at the former football player — which included a children’s choir singing “Clayton sucks” on Monday’s episode.

Gabby and Rachel Respond to Clayton and Susie's Reaction to 'Bachelorette' Premiere
Gabby Windey, Rachel Recchia, Susie Evans, and Clayton Echard. Tammie Arroyo/Shutterstock; ABC/Craig Sjodin

“I hope it doesn’t really play like that. I mean, in the moment, you know, Rachel and I were like, ‘Man, I wish we could kind of talk about something else.’ But it was literally just a week prior that [The Bachelor] had ended and everybody saw the ending at AFR. So it’s still so fresh,” the nurse explained. “So I think watching it back this many months later is why it also has kind of a bigger feel to it, [like], ‘Why now?’ But you also have to remember when we were filming, it was really fresh. I don’t think anyone meant anything malicious. I don’t think it was truly slander. I feel they were just trying to poke fun at it. But we understand definitely where they’re coming from.”

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The former NFL cheerleader and the flight instructor were named the co-Bachelorettes after Clayton came under fire for falling in love with all three of his finalists and sleeping with both Gabby and Rachel. After Susie learned about the overnight dates, she quit the show. Clayton then sent Gabby and Rachel packing (after briefly convincing them to stay), and the wedding photographer and the Missouri native got back together after the series wrapped.

“It’s two completely different situations,” Rachel told Us when asked whether she and Gabby feel sympathy for Clayton after going through their own journeys. “Of course, going even into night one, realizing that you can have different connections with different guys and they’re all so different and bring different things to the table. We can definitely see, you know, how people form multiple connections. But I do think it is a little bit just different all around. It’s two separate journeys and two different ways people handle things.”

Clayton, for his part, told Kaitlyn Bristowe on Tuesday, July 12, that he “laughed” at the premiere, but he said the jokes would likely “lead to cyberbullying” and more “attack[s]” being thrown his way. Susie admitted that she was “annoyed” by the situation.

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“Clayton handled it better, overall, than I did,” the Virginia native said on the “Off the Vine” podcast. “Like, come on. Clayton has given, you know, he can laugh at himself and I can laugh at Clayton. … And I can laugh at myself. But also, my fear is, like, ‘Does this open the floodgates back up of all the hate and stuff?’ So that’s where I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, really?’ But Clayton definitely was, like, going with the flow.”

When asked whether Gabby and Rachel have spoken to Clayton or Susie in recent weeks, the Colorado native implied no.

“We did have closure at AFR, which was really nice — that’s what it’s there for,” Gabby told Us. “We were able to kind of say our piece, get that closure in order to move on. I feel like we’re all going in separate directions and we’re happy for them and want them to succeed as we hope they are to us in this new opportunity that we’ve been given.”

The Bachelorette airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.

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