“The Bachelor” frontman Matt James has broken his silence on the growing controversy surrounding the show, as host Chris Harrison continues to come under fire for perpetuating racism during a recent interview.
James, the first black star of “The Bachelor,” is not only calling out Harrison for his words “troubling and painful,” but he’s also holding the franchise as a whole responsible for its handling of diversity and race over the two decades. that carries -air.
“The last few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life, and while there are several episodes left in the season, it is important that I take the time to address the troubling information that has come to light since we finished filming,” James wrote on his Instagram Monday, hours before a new episode of “The Bachelor” airs on ABC.
The controversy first erupted earlier this year, when old photos of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, a current favorite, who is still in James’ run of the season, surfaced on social media, showing her present at an aFormal ntebellum-themed fraternity in 2018. Kirkconnell was also accused on TikTok of racially insensitive behavior, including liking photos containing the Confederate flag.
Harrison then went on the entertainment news show, “Extra,” to sit down with former “Bachelorette” and correspondent, Rachel Lindsay, who asked Harrison about the controversy surrounding Kirkconnell. During the long discussion with Lindsay, Harrison went out of his way to apparently defend Kirkconnell, resulting in widespread criticism and prompting Harrison to apologize for “speaking in a way that perpetuates racism.”
Soon after, Harrison announced that he would be departing from the franchise for an undisclosed period of time, including not appearing in “After the Final Rose,” which will serve as the final episode of James’ season.
In his statement on Monday, James disagreed with both Harrison and Kirkconnell’s “incredibly disappointing” photos, as well as the franchise as a whole, which he says “has fallen short” when it comes to dealing with diversity and the race.
“The reality is that I am learning about these situations in real time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly,” wrote James.
“The fact that Chris was unable to receive and understand the emotional work that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on in gently and patiently explaining the racist history of Antebellum South, a painful story that all Americans should understand intimately, was troubling and painful to say. see, “James continued. “As Blacks and their allies knew and understood immediately, it was a clear reflection of a much larger problem that the ‘The Bachelor’ franchise has not adequately addressed for years.”
“This moment has sparked critical conversation and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity on the part of The Bachelor nation,” continued James. “It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on ‘The Bachelor’ represents, not just for me, but for all contestants of color, especially the black contestants from this season and past seasons, and for you, the viewers. at home “.
James concluded his heartfelt statement by writing, “I will continue to process this experience and, in the end, you will hear more from me. My biggest prayer is that this is a turning point that results in real, institutional change for the better. “
James had previously spoken about Kirkconnell’s photos on social media, but his initial comments were made before Harrison’s controversial interview and before more information about Kirkconnell came to light; At the time, the contestant had not spoken about the authenticity of the photos.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone since the show ended, but I would say you need to be very careful what you’re doing on social media,” James said in early February, during an interview with Entertainment Tonight, when asked about the accusations. “Rumors are dark and unpleasant and can ruin people’s lives. So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and I hope she has time to talk about that. “
As James wrote on his social media on Monday, he has been discovering new information, along with viewers at home, since filming for his season ended.
Shortly after Harrison’s “Extra” interview with Lindsay, Kirkconnell submitted his own statement of apology. “While rumors have circulated, truths have also come to light that I must address. I’m listening to you, and I’m here to say I was wrong, ”Kirkconnell wrote, in part. “At one point, I did not recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that does not excuse them … I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
As the controversy continues to mount, many contestants on “The Bachelor” have come together to speak out against the franchise’s racial issues, including 25 women from the season of James, which had the most diverse cast to date.
“We are the women of ‘Bachelor’ season 25,” the women posted earlier this month. “Twenty-five women who identify as BIPOC participated in this historic season that was intended to represent change. We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism. Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and ongoing experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences must not be exploited or tokenized. “
ABC has not issued any statement on the controversy, at this time. Variety has reached out to the network for comment on James’ post.