Bachelor Matt James Finally Addressed the Racism Issues Within the Franchise
He hopes this will be "an inflection point that results in real and institutional change."
Update, February 23rd, 2021: Bachelor Matt James has finally made an official statement addressing the "troubling information" that has come up in the past few weeks. James, who is currently starring as the Bachelor on the as-yet-unfinished season, shared a lengthy message on Instagram that touched on host Chris Harrison's defense of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's racist actions and remarks, as well as Harrison's problematic interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay.
After calling out the racist remarks from recent weeks, James wrote, "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."
James ended his message by saying fans will hear more from him later and that his "greatest prayer" is for this whole situation to be "an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better."
Update, February 16th, 2021: After Bachelor host Chris Harrison announced over the weekend that he'd be stepping aside from his duties with the franchise, former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay said she thinks he's done the right thing. Lindsay told ExtraTV on February 15th, "I wasn't shocked at the content of what he was saying… in public, where other people can hear what you think, and your, your thoughts may be a bit controversial, but I remember also thinking, 'This is something that needs to be heard. This is something that needs to be seen.'"
Lindsay added that Harrison's apology is hard for her and will take her awhile to work through, because it came after he already said everything he said. She said she'll need time and space to eventually accept the apology from Harrison.
As for how she feels about him choosing to step aside from his hosting duties at this time, Lindsay said, "Chris has stepped aside, which I think is the right decision because, like he said, he needs to take time to get educated and on a profound and productive level to use his word. And I think he needs to understand what was done, what was wrong, and what he said in that interview, and he needs time. He's stepped away to do that."
Update, February 15th, 2021: Amid the ongoing backlash for his comments defending Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's racist actions last week, franchise host Chris Harrison announced he'd be stepping aside for now. In a February 13th post to Instagram, the longtime host apologized again for his "ignorance," writing, "I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke."
Harrison came under fire last week not just for the way he defended Kirkconnell, who is on the current season of The Bachelor with the first Black Bachelor Matt James, but because he did so in an interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay—the first Black Bachelorette.
For her part, Lindsay had previously stated that she felt at the end of her rope with the franchise that continued to let her down, and on February 12th, according to Variety, she officially stated she wouldn't be fulfilling any more duties for the show once her contract is up. Variety also reported that Lindsay said on the February 12th episode of her podcast The Ringer, "I'm fucking tired. I'm exhausted. I have truly had enough."
It's not yet clear what Harrison's decreased duties will include, other than not hosting the "After the Final Rose" episode. Harrison's statement said he didn't want to mar this "historic season" of The Bachelor with his mistakes and actions. We will have to wait to see what comes next for him.
Original story, February 11th, 2021: Rachel Lindsay has put a lot of her time and energy into The Bachelor franchise. As the first Black bachelorette on the show in 2017, the 35-year-old former attorney suffered targeted discrimination and racism and has carried the weight of bringing racial awareness to the series—both during and ever since her time on screen. So, when show host Chris Harrison failed to condemn the racist actions of a contestant on the current season, it makes sense that Lindsay would say she's on her last straw.
Lindsay hosted Harrison on Extra on Tuesday to get his thoughts about the allegations against current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell. Since the first Black bachelor Matt James' season started airing in early January, Kirkconnell has been accused of racism, starting when a TikTok user accused the reality star of bullying her for dating Black men. Social media users have also shown examples of Kirkconnell liking Confederate flag-related TikToks and a resurfaced photo that shows her attending a plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018.
To all of this, Harrison said, "we all need to have a little grace, a little compassion, a little understanding" for Kirkconnell, arguing that she was young at the time of the party. When Lindsay said her attendance at the party was "not a good look," Harrison replied, "Well, Rachel, is it [not] a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021?" Lindsay quickly replied, "It's not a good look ever," but the interview continued for just under 14 minutes with Harrison repeating similar sentiments throughout, making many "the times were different" type of arguments.
Not to mention, he interrupts and talks over Lindsay countless times throughout the interview—and that, Chris, is not a good look.
A HuffPost reporter and co-host of the podcast Here to Make Friends tweeted about her frustration and disappointment with Harrison's remarks. "We can leave grace and space for learning while still demanding accountability. I feel like @chrisbharrison expresses more empathy for people who romanticize the confederacy than people who are harmed by white supremacy in this clip," she wrote. "So disappointing"
She also addressed his remarks about how the "woke police" were "just tearing this girl's life apart," regarding the online commentary about Kirkconnell. "There will always be people who cross the line from fair criticism to harassment online," she wrote. "But there are plenty of #TheBachelor fans who have expressed upset about Rachael's past actions from a place of good faith and a love for the show. To pretend otherwise is so insulting."
Then, she gave a shoutout to Lindsay for being "so generous and giving" to the franchise. "We do not deserve her."
Lindsay responded to this tweet, writing, "My days are numbered," implying that she doesn't have much left to give to the show, and we really can't blame her.
In the same Twitter thread, one user called upon other former bachelorettes to support Lindsay in speaking out and holding the franchise accountable.
"Dear @thebkoof@kaitlynbristowe@hannahbrown@tayshia + other bachelorettes - Rachel has carried the weight for far too long and taken too much abuse from this franchise," @yassoumaria wrote. "How do you all plan to hold the show accountable for their actions? Because your voices/allyship are needed."
Kirkconnell has yet to make a public statement about her past actions, but former bachelor James addressed the controversy in an interview with Entertainment Tonight in early February. "Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people's lives," he said. "So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully she will have her time to speak on that."
Harrison, on the other hand, issued an apology yesterday for what he said in his interview with Lindsay, but Bachelor Nation is largely not having it.
He wrote that his intentions were "simply to ask for grace" in offering Kirkconnell room to defend herself, but fans of the franchise are coming down on him for defending racism, something that is never okay. It remains to be seen where the show, Kirkconnell, James, Harrison, and Lindsay go from here.