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Bachelor Nation Reacts to Matt James’ Season 25 Finale and Winner Rachael Kirkconnell

Time to process. Bachelor Nation is speaking out after Matt James‘ season 25 finale of The Bachelor aired on Monday, March 15. The leading man ended up choosing contestant Rachael Kirkconnell over Michelle Young. However, the pair did not get engaged and they are no longer together. Moreover, Michelle was announced as one of two new Bachelorettes.

Matt’s decision to break things off with Rachael wasn’t an easy one and ultimately, came as a result of her past racist behavior. Shortly after season 25 of The Bachelor premiered in January 2021, a woman on TikTok claimed the Cumming, Georgia, native bullied her in high school for “liking Black men.”

Days later, a second woman on TikTok claimed Rachael “liked” racist images on social media, including a photo of two people standing in front of a Confederate flag, as well as a group of people who appeared to be dressed as Mexican men. Most notably, Rachael attended an “Old South” plantation party at Georgia State College & University in 2018, where all of the women were dressed in Antebellum-style gowns.

“As someone who grew up in the South, it takes me to a place that I don’t often like to think about. I wasn’t OK,” Matt expressed to host Emmanuel Acho during After the Final Rose. “It was in that moment and the conversation that I had, that Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America. It’s heartbreaking. If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me that you won’t understand. It’s as simple as that.”

On February 11, Rachael issued a lengthy apology on Instagram. “While there have been rumors circulation, there have also been truths that have come to light that I need to address. I hear you, and I’m here to say I was wrong,” the ABC personality wrote at the time. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. 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.”

Ahead of Rachael’s statement, franchise host Chris Harrison spoke with season 13 Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay about the outrage surrounding Rachael.

“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. 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,” he expressed to Rachel during a February 9 interview with Extra“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, who was the first-ever Black Bachelorette in 2017, suggested attending an “Old South” party wasn’t a “good look,” Chris countered, “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.”

Chris’ statements sparked backlash and he issued two separate apologies on Instagram. Additionally, ABC announced that he will not be hosting season 17 and 18 of The Bachelorette starring Katie Thurston in summer 2021 and Michelle in fall 2021. Instead, alumni Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will be stepping in.

“We support Chris in the work that he is committed to doing. In his absence, former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will support the new Bachelorette through next season,” the network wrote in a statement on March 12.

“As we continue the dialogue around achieving greater equality and inclusion within The Bachelor franchise, we are dedicated to improving the BIPOC representation of our crew, including among the executive producer ranks,” continued the statement. “These are important steps in effecting fundamental change so that our franchise is a celebration of love that is reflective of our world.”

Scroll through the gallery below to see Bachelor Nation reactions to Matt James’ finale of The Bachelor