Showing solidarity. Matt James addressed the controversy surrounding Chris Harrison’s Bachelor stepdown following his comments about season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell and allegations of racism.
“The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life, and while there are several episodes left of the season,” James, 29, wrote via Instagram on Monday, February 22. “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.”
The ABC Food Tours founder, who was named the first Black Bachelor in June 2020, revealed that he has been processing the scandal since Harrison’s controversial interview with Lindsay, 35, earlier this month. In his conversation with the former Bachelorette lead, the Bachelor Nation host, 49, came to Kirkconnell’s defense after she was accused of racist actions.
“The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly,” James explained. “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 intimately, was troubling and painful to watch.”
He noted that “Black people and allies immediately knew and understood” what was wrong with Harrison’s reaction to questions about Kirkconnell’s past actions — including attending a plantation-themed college event in 2018 and “liking” photos that had a confederate flag in the background.
“It was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years,” James said. “This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor nation.”
On a personal note, he said it has “pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home.”
The Wake Forest University alum vowed that fans will “hear more from me in the end” as he continues to process what has transpired.
“My greatest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better,” he concluded.
Harrison made headlines earlier this month when he defended Kirkconnell during an interview with Lindsay for Extra.
After receiving backlash for his comments, the former Who Wants to Be a Millionaire host issued a public apology on February 10, saying, “While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf. 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.”
Kirkconnell, 24, apologized the same day via an Instagram statement, writing, “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.”
James, for his part, previously addressed the scandal on February 12, praising Lindsay for being so vocal about the franchise’s inadequacies. “I am beyond grateful to have Rachel as a mentor during this season,” he wrote via his Instagram Stories. “Your advocacy of BIPOC people in the franchise is invaluable, I stand with you and the rest of the women advocating for change and accountability.”
Harrison doubled down on his apology one day later, revealing on February 13 that he would be taking some time away from The Bachelor franchise.
“By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term ‘woke police,’ which is unacceptable,” he wrote in a statement at the time, noting he would not host season 25’s After the Final Rose special. “I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong.”
A source exclusively told Us Weekly on Friday, February 19, that the network has had “conversations about somehow cutting Chris Harrison from some of the prerecorded episodes” amid the drama. The insider added that there have also been talks about “pushing The Bachelorette back” to give Harrison more time away from the franchise before filming resumes.