Matt James, ABC’s first black romantic lead The Bachelor, spoke out against the controversies surrounding host Chris Harrison and contestant Rachael Kirkconnell. On Monday, James posted a statement on Instagram condemning the actions of Harrison and Kirkconnell.
“The reality is that I am learning about these situations in real time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly,” he wrote. “Chris’s inability to receive and understand the emotional work that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on in kindly and patiently explaining the racist history of Antebellum South, a painful story that every American should understand intimately, was disturbing and painful to watch.
‘Bachelor’ host Chris Harrison will step aside and not appear in ‘After The Final Rose’ recap
James continues: “As Blacks and Allies knew and understood immediately, it was a clear reflection of a much larger problem that The Bachelor franchise has not adequately addressed for years. “
Earlier this month, Kirkconnell received backlash after photos showing the 24-year-old attending a formal plantation-themed fraternity ceremony before the war in 2018 resurfaced. The contestant apologized for the photos old, pointing out that he was ignorant and that his “ignorance was racist.”
Kirkconnell’s photos became the subject of an interview between Harrison and contestant Lindsay. At Extra In the interview, Harrison defended the favorite of the season, noting that the photos were taken a long time ago and suggesting that Kirkconnell had become a target of the cancellation culture. Following the interview and the social media reaction, Harrison stepped aside as a host and will not appear in the series’ recap episode.
With racism and racial issues at the center of the Bachelor Nation’s spotlight, James said controversies have pushed him to “re-evaluate and process what my experience at The Bachelor represents” for contestants of color, specifically black contestants.
“I will continue to process this experience, and in the end you will hear more from me,” he wrote. “My biggest prayer is that this is a turning point that results in real, institutional change for the better.”
See James’s full statement below.