The Bachelor is weighing in. Matt James broke his silence on the controversial comments Chris Harrison made about season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell during the host’s Tuesday, February 9, interview with Rachel Lindsay on Extra, and shared a lengthy statement a couple of weeks later on February 22.
“I am beyond grateful to have Rachel as a mentor during this season. Your advocacy of BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] people in the franchise is invaluable. I stand with you and the rest of the women advocating for change and accountability,” the North Carolina native, 29, captioned an Instagram Story featuring a photo of the season 13 Bachelorette, 35, on Friday, February 12.
He added some thoughts in a statement on his Instagram feed on Monday, February 22, before the hometown dates episode of the show. “The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life, and while there are several episodes left of the season, it is important that I take the time to address troubling information that has come to light since we wrapped filming, including the incredibly disappointing photos of Rachael Kirkconnell and the interview between Rachel Lindsay and Chris Harrison,” he wrote. “The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real-time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly. Chris’ failure to receive and understand the emotional labor that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on by graciously and patiently explaining the racist history of the Antebellum South, a painful history that every American should understand immediately, was troubling and painful to watch. As Black people and allies immediately knew and understood, it was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years.”
“This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor nation,” he added. “It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all of the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home. I will continue to process this experience, and you will hear more from me in the end. My greatest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better.”
After The Bachelor premiered on January 4, accusations against Rachael of past racist behavior began to pop up all over the internet. On January 11, a woman on TikTok alleged the Cumming, Georgia, native once bullied her for “liking Black men.”
On January 26, an additional woman on TikTok claimed the 24-year-old “liked” racist photos on Instagram — including a picture of two people standing in front of a Confederate flag, as well as a group of white women who appeared to be dressed up as Mexican men.
On February 7, photos of Rachael at an “Old South” plantation party at Georgia College & State University in 2018 resurfaced. All of the women in attendance were dressed in Antebellum-style gowns.
Prior to his statement, Matt did acknowledge the outrage over Rachael’s past. “I have not spoken to anybody since the show ended, but I would say that you have to be really careful about what you are doing on social media,” he told Entertainment Tonight on February 2. “Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people’s lives. So, I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully she will have her time to speak on that.”
Rachael did speak out on February 11, admitting there was “truth” to the accusations and apologizing. “I hear you, and I’m here to say I was wrong,” she wrote in a lengthy Instagram post. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. They are not acceptable or OK in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended.”
Chris, 49, spoke with Rachel Lindsay during a virtual appearance on Extra two days earlier. “First and foremost, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to Rachael about it. And this is, again, where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion,” the longtime host began.
“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,” Chris continued. “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?”
Rachel, who was the first Black Bachelorette, pointed out Rachael’s celebration of the “Old South” was “not a good look,” to which 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.” In her own apology, Rachael seemingly responded to Chris’ defense, saying, “My age or when it happened does not excuse anything.”
After receiving immediate backlash, Chris issued a lengthy apology of his own on his Instagram Story. “My intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,” he wrote. “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.”