The 49-year-old host sat down with Rachel Lindsay, who made history as the first Black Bachelorette in 2017, for an interview with Extra on Tuesday, February 9. During their chat, Lindsay, 35, asked Harrison about allegations that Kirkconnell, 25, “liked” racist social media posts and about a photo of the graphic designer at a plantation-themed frat party at the Georgia College in 2018.
“We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion. Because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents, her parents’ voting record,” Harrison told Lindsay about Matt James’ contestant. “I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. 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 and that’s it.”
While Harrison acknowledged that the photos were not a “good look,” he added, “Is it [not] a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?”
He continued: “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?”
Bachelor viewers were quick to accuse Harrison of downplaying Kirkconnell’s actions and criticized his use of the term “woke police” during his chat with Lindsay. The former Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? host apologized for his remarks on Wednesday, February 10, via a statement shared on Instagram.
“To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology. I have this incredible platform to speak about love, and yesterday, 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.”
Harrison added, “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.”
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While James, 29, who told Kirkconnell he was falling in love with her during the February 2 episode, has yet to publicly react to Harrison’s interview, he “liked” the apology. Lindsay, meanwhile, claimed in her chat with Harrison that there was nothing in her contract with the show to stop her from defending herself.
Kirkconnell, for her part, broke her silence on her past behavior on Thursday, February 11, via Instagram.
“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,” she wrote in part. “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.”
The 24-year-old contestant continued, “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 learn from my mistakes and encourage you to use them as a teachable moment.”
Scroll through for reactions to the controversy from Bachelor and Bachelorette alums: