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Ben Higgins Addresses 'Controversy' Over Why Peter Weber Is 'Bachelor' Instead of Mike Johnson (Exclusive)

Jennifer Drysdale‍

After months of speculation, ABC finally revealed our next Bachelor -- and it's Peter Weber! 

The 27-year-old pilot was named our next franchise lead during Tuesday night's Bachelor in Paradise season finale, and while many fans were excited with the choice, others had been rooting for another man, Mike Johnson, to get the gig. The Texas-based portfolio manager would have been the first black Bachelor. 

While speaking with ET's Lauren Zima after the taping, former Bachelor Ben Higgins said he thought there might be some controversy over the decision. 

"I do think there will be a little controversy around why Mike wasn't chosen, but I do think Peter's a great choice and I think we should be happy that we have a guy like him leading the franchise," Higgins offered. 

"I think [Mike] would have been great as well," he added. "The one thing that we didn't see is we didn't see a lot of Mike in Paradise and I think if we would have, we would have fallen in love with his love story a little bit more." 

Diversity has been a big topic surrounding the Bachelor franchise, which has so far only featured one black lead: Rachel Lindsay as the Bachelorette in 2017. The Bachelor has meanwhile gone 17 years and now 24 seasons without a black lead. When asked about the possibility of casting a black Bachelor at the Television Critics Association summer press tour last month, ABC boss Karey Burke simply said conversations about who would get the gig were ongoing.   

"I will say this -- I do think the show has worked hard to increase diversity in its casting and is continuing to evolve," she added. "And as it evolves, we'll continue to see more diversity from the franchise."

"I think this will bring up the conversation once again," Higgins told ET. "It's... been talked about since I was the Bachelor and way before I was the Bachelor. It's [a question] I'm getting asked all the time."

"I think when it's the right guy, it will be the right guy. I don't know Mike, so I can't say, but we have to celebrate Peter," he continued. "But I will say this -- I think if Mike in Paradise, if we really fell in love with his story, I think he would have been the perfect choice. But instead we just didn't see him a lot."

Weber does offer some diversity to the franchise, as he's half-Cuban. Bachelor in Paradise alum Chris Randone was rooting for Derek Peth, who is half-Brazilian. 

"I know that I was vouching for Derek and I knew that Pete was in the running and I thought Pete was just as great a candidate, but I knew that [Derek] had a little bit more to bring to the table," Randone said. "But at the end of the day, I think you can't go wrong with Peter. I think he's a great looking guy."

"I'd always said Peter was my top choice, because I just felt that he would be, he's the new Ben Higgins, you know? He's sweet and every mother's dream, and I think that we're actually gonna see a more emotional side from Peter," Randone's wife, Krystal Nielson, added. "I think that he has that and I'm really excited to watch and see what unfolds. I'm just honestly really sad that it's gonna be like six months away. What are we gonna do for six months?"

The Bachelor will air this January on ABC. See more in the video below, and join ET's Bachelor Nation Facebook group here

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