As mounting off-camera controversies plague this season of The Bachelor, Matt James has remained silent. That is, until today.
What was meant to mark a historic milestone for the dating competition, with James cast as the first Black Bachelor, has been marred by accusations of racism.
Sharing a statement to his Instagram shortly before tonight’s episode was set to air, he wrote, “The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life, and while there are several episodes left of the season, 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 reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real-time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly,” James continued. “Chris’s 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. 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.”
Season frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell has been facing mounting accusations of racism, bullying, and cultural appropriation, seemingly coming to a head when photos of her at an Antebellum-themed part surfaced on Reddit. She has since issued an apology on Instagram.
While discussing her accusations with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay on Extra, Chris Harrison called for Kirkconnell to receive “grace” from fans and questioned if the photos were considered “not a good look” in 2018. In the aftermath of the interview, he was criticized for “perpetuating racism” and has since stepped aside.
Among the many Bachelor Nation stars responding to these events, all of this season’s contestants shared a joint statement calling out racism in the franchise. The men in season 16 of The Bachelorette soon followed suit with their own joint statement.
James touched upon these statements in his own, writing, “This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor Nation. It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, 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.”
The North Carolina native concluded his statement, “I will continue to process this experience, and you will hear more from me in the end. My greatest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better.”
STOP! Spoilers on season 25 of The Bachelor ahead.
Harrison’s Future With the Franchise Remains in Question
Within 24 hours of the interview, Harrison issued his first apology. Yet, as outcries continued and a Change.org petition called for his resignation, the franchise’s longtime host issued his second apology.
“I have spent the last few days listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful,” Harrison wrote in a statement he issued on Instagram.
He later added, “This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions,” he said of this season, which sees Matt James’ as the franchise’s first Black Bachelor. “To that end, I have consulted with Warner Bros. and ABC and will be stepping aside for a period of time and will not join for the After the Final Rose special.”
Kirkconnell Receives James’ Final Rose
(SPOILER): Not that Matt’s statement wasn’t pretty clear itself, but I can confirm that Matt and Rachael have broken up. https://t.co/tarvmmDQAb
— RealitySteve (@RealitySteve) February 23, 2021
Amid these claims, Reality Steve reported Kirkconnell received James’ final rose, though the two did not get engaged.
While the relationship remained in question, it seems the couple is no longer together.
“Not that Matt’s statement wasn’t pretty clear itself, but I can confirm that Matt and Rachael have broken up,” Reality Steve tweeted minutes after James’ statement.
Their journey on The Bachelor continues on Monday nights on ABC at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
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