‘The Bachelor’: Matt James Wants ‘Real and Institutional Change’ Amid Rachael Kirkconnell and Chris Harrison Controversies

Rachael Kirkconnell’s racism controversy

Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James on 'The Bachelor' Season 25
Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James on ‘The Bachelor’ Season 25 | Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

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The Bachelor Season 25 star Matt James has something to say about the franchise’s latest controversies surrounding host Chris Harrison and current cast member Rachael Kirkconnell. Here’s what James shared on Instagram and what to expect from the lead after The Bachelor finale.

The Bachelor Nation contestant has since shared an apology.  

At the start of The Bachelor Season 25, multiple allegations against Kirkconnell emerged. In January, a TikTok user claimed that Kirkconnell bullied her for dating Black men. Then another TikTok user accused Kirkconnell of liking racist posts on social media. Meanwhile, photos of Kirkconnell at an “Old South antebellum plantation-themed ball” surfaced online, per The Sun

Chris Harrison’s interview with Rachel Lindsay about Rachael Kirkconnell

“I’m here to say I was wrong,” Kirkconnell 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 okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”

Before Kirkconnell’s apology on Instagram, Harrison defended the Bachelor contestant’s “Old South” photos in an interview with The Bachelorette Season 12 star Rachel Lindsay. Harrison wanted fans to show James’ cast member “a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion.” He also suggested that the party was fine, as “50 million people did that in 2018.” 

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“By excusing historical racism, I defended it,” Harrison wrote. “I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong. To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry. My words were harmful. I am listening, and I truly apologize for my ignorance and any pain it caused you.”

Following Harrison’s interview with Lindsay on Extra, Bachelor Nation fans were understandably upset with the franchise’s host. Then Harrison issued a public apology on Instagram. He also revealed he was stepping down for a “period of time” and would not be returning for The Bachelor’s “After the Final Rose” special. 

On Feb. 22, James addressed the recent Bachelor Nation controversies caused by Kirkconnell and Harrison. The current lead also revealed how he is feeling at this time. On Instagram, James wrote:

Matt James addresses the Rachael Kirkconnell and Chris Harrison controversies on Instagram and Twitter

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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’s 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. 

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 the 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. 

“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,” he wrote. “This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor Nation.”

'The Bachelor' Season 25 Cast
‘The Bachelor’ Season 25 Cast | ABC/Craig Sjodin

Meanwhile, James acknowledged the deeper issues within The Bachelor franchise. 

James concluded his statement by calling for “real and institutional change” within the franchise moving forward. The lead also hinted that he has more to say after The Bachelor finale.

James continued, “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,” he wrote. “My greatest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better.”
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