Lauren Zima broke her silence on boyfriend Chris Harrison‘s controversial comments on The Bachelor‘s Rachael Kirkconnell. “What Chris said was wrong and disappointing. Defending racism can never happen,” the television personality, who began dating Chris in 2018, wrote. “Accountability comes first, what’s next is learning and growth.”
Lauren’s statement comes hours after the longtime Bachelor host, 49, revealed he would be “stepping aside” from his hosting role “for a period of time” amid the backlash over how he addressed Rachael’s past racist behavior.
Following the premiere of Matt James‘ season of The Bachelor on January 4, a woman on TikTok accused the Cumming, Georgia, native, 24, of bullying her in high school for “liking Black men.” A few weeks later, another woman on TikTok alleged Rachael “liked” racist photos on Instagram, including a picture of two people posing in front of a Confederate flag. Finally, on February 7, images of Rachael attending an “Old South” plantation party at Georgia College & State University in 2018 surfaced. All of the women at the event were dressed in Antebellum-style gowns.
On February 9, Rachel Lindsay, who was the first-ever Black Bachelorette in season 13, asked Chris his thoughts on the situation during a virtual interview on Extra. “First and foremost, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to Rachael about it,” he began. “And this is, again, where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion. Because I’ve seen some stuff online — again this judge-jury-executioner thing — where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents and her parents’ voting record. It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this?”
When Rachel, 35, pointed out attending an “Old South” party is “not a good look,” Chris replied, “You’re 100 percent right in 2021. That was not the case in 2018. And again, I’m not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to. And again, I’m not defending it; I didn’t go to it.”
Since then, both Chris and Rachael have issued apologies. “My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or OK in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist,” the season 25 contestant wrote in a lengthy Instagram post on February 11.
“My intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,” Chris explained on February 10. “What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that, I am so deeply sorry.”