BURBANK, CA—Facing a backlash over what is perhaps the show’s most confounding move to date, producers for ABC’s The Bachelorette attempted to fend off criticism Monday for its controversial decision to feature a 13-year-old girl in the titular role of the program’s latest season. “She may be a little younger than our past bachelorettes, but we’re confident Kayla will win over viewers’ hearts with her love of horses, soccer, and chocolate-chip ice cream,” said ABC spokesperson Marianne Weatherby, who defended the network’s choice to cast the seventh-grader in a show in which, over the course of a dozen episodes, 30 male contestants will vie for the child’s affections and hand in marriage. “When our casting agent first brought her in, we had concerns as well, but the more time we spent with Kayla, the more we loved her—and we think you will too. We apologize to anyone who may feel offended, but at this point we’ve already filmed the entire season. Plus, none of the male contestants gave us any complaints.” Weatherby went on to reveal that Kayla had hit it off right away with the season’s youngest suitor, Richard, a 46-year-old mechanic from Kalispell, MT.