During the two-night season 6 premiere earlier this month, Horstmann, 30, caught flak after Miller-Keyes revealed he’d hooked up with her one day after sleeping with Kristina Schulman at the Stagecoach festival in April. According to Miller-Keyes, it was former Bachelor Underwood who introduced her to Horstmann.
On the show, Miller-Keyes, 24, tearfully told cameras that Horstmann had called their night together a “mistake” and begged her to keep it a secret. But as the episodes aired, Horstmann posted their text messages on his Instagram Story. Their conversations seemed to debunk her story, suggesting she sought him out for sex and was just as concerned about people finding out. The screenshots also name-dropped Underwood and his girlfriend Cassie Randolph, indicating they were aware of the hookup.
Horstmann, who later deleted the screenshots, has since apologized for what went down at the music festival and insisted he was not trying to “attack” Miller-Keyes. She issued her own statement on Instagram, saying “the 5 am text exchange that Blake chose to share is not an accurate representation of our past relationship” and that she “did not go on a show to ruin someone’s character.”
Speaking to PEOPLE at the “Lose Your Vegenity” event with MorningStar Farms in New York City on Wednesday, Underwood, 27, said he thinks both Horstmann and Miller-Keyes “have made mistakes.”
“I think they both will admit that,” he said. “They both could have handled the situation much better. I’ve been in situations that I could have handled [better] or I said the wrong thing — that’s when you live and you learn. I hope that they both have lived and they have learned through this moment.”
“I really hope — because I’m friends with both of them — that they, at the end of this, whether it means at the reunion or after all of this, that they can come back together and at least support one another or agree to disagree,” he continued. “But I just hope that they’re both doing okay and handling all this, because it’s not easy to go through.”
Underwood also admitted that the whole thing put him and Randolph, 24, “in very awkward situations.”
“We both have sort of just been staying out of it and staying low-key with it all,” he said. “But you know, it’s been rough on both of them, I’ll say that. It hasn’t been easy to sort of live your life out, to that extent, in the media. I feel for both of them, but at the same time, hopefully, they both have learned from this.”
But there’s one person in Mexico whom Underwood couldn’t be more proud of: Demi Burnett, a contestant from his season of The Bachelor who just came out as queer on BiP. (Her girlfriend from home joined the cast on Tuesday’s episode.)
“I’m very, very excited for Demi,” he said. “I think that it is an extremely importantly leap for the franchise and for mainstream TV and ABC, to be able to step boldly into a path that not a lot of networks are comfortable stepping in. I’m very, very proud to be associated with Demi and with the franchise.”
“It’s amazing,” he added. “I think Demi doesn’t realize … not only what she did for herself, but what she is doing for all of the young girls and men out there, who are struggling with identity. I think that is very, very important to everybody in our society — to really pay attention to how you feel about yourself and where you’re at with your feelings and your emotions.”
Bachelor in Paradise airs Mondays and Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.