Another member of Bachelor Nation is weighing in on the Rachael Kirkconnell racism controversy. This time, Mike Johnson, who was a contestant on Hannah Brown‘s season of The Bachelorette, revealed what he would do if he were in Bachelor Matt James‘ shoes.
“It’s rumored that … you know, Rachael’s obviously a frontrunner. We’re down to the final four. I want to speak in a hypothetical. If Matt does pick Rachael, what kind of conversations should they be having in light of everything that has come to the table?” Rachel Lindsay asked Johnson, 33, during a Tuesday, February 16, virtual interview with Extra.
“I think I might have a viewpoint people won’t agree with … which, I like. I think that Matt and Rachael, if they are together, shouldn’t break up because of this reason. If you really love someone you can grow through that and conversations — hard conversations — will need to be had. If I were the Bachelor, a Black man, and I chose this woman who has this past, if I love her … love overrules,” the former Bachelor in Paradise star explained.
“With that being said, I’d be like, “’Baby, you gonna have to stand on this. I got your back, but you gonna have to stand on this one. You gonna have to speak up on this one and speak out … for me, and for everyone, but I have your back,'” Johnson added. “I think they gotta stand up on it.”
Shortly after James’ season of The Bachelor premiered in early January, accusations against Kirkconnell, 24, of past racist behavior began to circulate around the internet. Most notably, the Cumming, Georgia, native attended an “Old South” plantation party when she was a student at Georgia College & State University in 2018, where all of the women in attendance were dressed in Antebellum-style gowns.
On February 11, Kirkconnell issued a statement addressing the allegations. “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,” she wrote on Instagram. “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.” Kirkconnell concluded her statement with, “I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions.”
Speaking with Lindsay, 35, Johnson noted Kirkconnell’s apology “was good.” However, he’s “going to accept it” based on her “actions.” From there, the former Bachelorette, who was the first-ever Black leading lady in season 13, asked Johnson, “What type of actions would you need to see from her to know she’s taking the right steps to be better?”
The ABC personality referenced “reading a book by James Baldwin” as a prime example. “I would just adore that. I would know, that even when I’m not paying attention, she’s doing the work.”
For James’ part, he briefly addressed the outrage over Kirkconnell’s past actions following Bachelor host Chris Harrison‘s controversial interview with Lindsay on February 9. Harrison, 49, was accused of defending the season 25 contestant after suggesting Bachelor Nation and viewers alike offer Rachael “a little grace,” “a little understanding” and “a little compassion.”
On February 12, James, 29, wrote, “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.”
Since then, Harrison has issued an apology for his comments. Furthermore, the Texas native announced he is “stepping aside” as host. “I have spent the last few days listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful,” he wrote on Instagram. “My ignorance did damage to friends, colleagues and strangers alike. I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke. I set standards for myself and have not met them. I feel that with every fiber of my being. Now, just as I taught my children to stand up, and to own their actions, I will do the same.”