After voicing support for former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay on social media, current Bachelor star Matt James—the franchise’s first Black leading man—has released a more detailed statement in response to the ongoing controversy surrounding host Chris Harrison’s racist remarks and subsequent leave of absence. During a recent interview with Lindsay for Extra, Harrison came to the defense of current Bachelor finalist Rachael Kirkconnell regarding allegations of problematic and racist behavior, including resurfaced photos of Kirkconnell attending an antebellum-themed college party in 2018. Lindsay, the franchise’s first Black Bachelorette, asked Harrison about the troubling revelations, prompting the longtime host to defend Kirkconnell in what many viewers felt was an aggressive manner, insisting that the social norms of 2018 were very different from those in 2021 (ah yes, 2018, when we still took our horse-and-buggies to market).
In a statement shared to his Instagram account, James called the controversy “devastating,” and rightly called out the recent developments as “a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years.” Those issues have long been evident both within the franchise production and among the Bachelor Nation fandom. During Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette, host network ABC came under fire when a contestant’s racist and sexist tweets resurfaced. With regards to Lindsay, who formally cut ties with the franchise following the interview with Harrison, James said, “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.”
James went on to note that the controversy has inspired “critical conversations and reporting,” and “raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor Nation,” referring to a statement released and co-signed by this season’s women. “It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents,” James continued, “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.” James concluded his statement by expressing his hope that the controversy results in “real and institutional change for the better.”
As of now, Kirkconnell is still in the running to become James’ fiancé. This week’s episode of The Bachelor featured “hometown” visits with the families of the finalists, including Kirkconnell, who does not appear in next week’s “Women Tell All” episode. ABC has yet to announce who will replace Harrison as host of the “After The Final Rose” special, where James will presumably speak on this season’s controversy again—and we’ll find out if or how these developments have impacted his relationship with Kirkconnell.