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Bachelor Matt James Addresses Chris Harrison and Rachael Kirkconnell Controversy

Breaking his silence. Matt James addressed the controversy surrounding Bachelor host Chris Harrison and season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell by sharing his support for Rachel Lindsay on Friday, February 12.

Related: Chris Harrison's Controversial Interview About Rachael: Bachelor Nation Reacts

“I am beyond grateful to have Rachel as a mentor during this season,” the 29-year-old Bachelor wrote via 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.”

After Kirkconnell, 24, was accused of being racist by a TikTok user last month, alleged screenshots of her “liking” controversial Instagram posts, including an image of two women posing in front of a Confederate flag, surfaced online. Earlier this month, Kirkconnell came under fire again when photos surfaced of her and her sorority sisters at Georgia College at a plantation-themed frat party.

Bachelor Matt James Addresses Chris Harrison and Rachael Kirkconnell Controversy
Matt James, Chris Harrison, and Rachael Kirkconnell ABC (2); Courtesy of Rachael Kirkconnell/Instagram

Harrison, 49, for his part, was accused of downplaying Kirkconnell’s actions during an interview with season 13 Bachelorette Lindsay on Tuesday, February 9.

“I haven’t talked to Rachael about it. We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion,” Harrison told Lindsay, 35, on Extra. “I have seen some stuff online. Again, this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart … Until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this? … I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago, that’s it. … My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time; they were 18 years old. Now, does that make it OK? I don’t know, Rachel, you tell me. Were we all looking through [that lens] in 2018?”

Related: Meet Bachelor Matt James' Contestants

Lindsay replied, “We weren’t looking through those lenses and we should have been. And just because it was a popular party, you know, doesn’t necessarily make it right.”

In addition to being accused of gaslighting Lindsay, many social media users weren’t happy with Harrison’s use of the term “woke police.” He subsequently apologized to Bachelor Nation and Lindsay via Instagram.

“I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed. 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,” Harrison wrote. “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. I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has first hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better.”

Us editors discuss Colton Underwood’s coming out in this Here for the Right Reasons podcast highlight!

Related: Biggest Bachelor Nation Scandals of All Time

The graphic designer, for her part, spoke out in a lengthy statement on Thursday, February 11.

“While there have been rumors circulating, 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,” Kirkconnell began. “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. I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me. I am learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist, because it’s important. to speak up in the moment and not after you’re called out. If you are a person who doesn’t understand the offense in question, I urge you to use them as a teachable moment.”

Bachelor Matt James Addresses Chris Harrison and Rachael Kirkconnell Controversy
ABC/Craig Sjodin

Kirkconnell added that she wants to put her energy toward “preventing people from making the same offensive mistakes” she made.

She concluded: “Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions. I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don’t think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope that I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions.”

Not long after Kirkconnell’s apology was released, her season 25 costars shared a statement of their own.

“We are the women of Bachelor Season 25. Twenty-five women who identify as BIPOC were cast on this historic season that was meant to represent change. We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism. Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experience of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized,” the group wrote. “Rachel Lindsay continues to advocate with ‘grace’ for individuals who identify as BIPOC within this franchise. Just because she is speaking the loudest, doesn’t mean she is alone. We stand with her, we hear her, and we advocate for change alongside her.”

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