Matt James has broken his silence on the escalating controversy surrounding the show, as longtime host Chris Harrison remains under fire for perpetuating racism during a recent interview.
James, the first Black star of “The Bachelor,” is not just calling out Harrison for his “troubling and painful” words, but is also holding the over franchise accountable for its handling of diversity and race over the two decades it has been on-air.
“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,” James wrote on his Instagram on Monday, hours before a new episode of “The Bachelor” is set to air on ABC.
The controversy first erupted earlier this year, when former photos of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell — a currently frontrunner, who is still in the running on James’ season — emerged on social media, showing her in attendance at an antebellum-themed fraternity formal in 2018. Kirkconnell was also accused on TikTok of racially-insensitive behavior, including liking photos containing the Confederate flag.
Harrison then went on the entertainment news show, “Extra,” to sit down with former “Bachelorette” and correspondent, Rachel Lindsay, who asked Harrison about the controversy surrounding Kirkconnell. During the lengthy discussion with Lindsay, Harrison went to great lengths to seemingly defend Kirkconnell, which resulted in widespread criticism and led to Harrison issuing an apology for “speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.”
Soon after, Harrison announced he would be stepping aside from the franchise for a period of time, including not appearing on “After the Final Rose,” which will serve as the final episode of James’ season.
In his statement on Monday, James took issue with both Harrison and the “incredibly disappointing” photos of Kirkconnell, in addition to the franchise as a whole, which he says has “fallen short” when it comes to dealing with diversity and race.
“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 wrote.
“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,” James continued. “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.”
More to come…