“The Bachelor” star Matt James is speaking out for the first time following the show’s ongoing controversy involving the show’s most recent host, Chris Harrison.
As viewers of the romance reality series may know, Harrison stepped away from his hosting duties after failing to condemn current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racist behavior.
In a lengthy statement posted to his Instagram account on Monday, Feb. 22, James expressed that the past few weeks have been the “most challenging” for him. He explained that he felt it was essential to address the incident given that production had finished filming, the “disappointing” photos of Kirkconnell that had surfaced, and the interview between Harrison and “Bachelorette” alum Rachel Lindsay.
“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. 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.”
James went on to explain that because of the incident, he had been forced to reevaluate and process what his tenure on the show means, “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 29-year-old concluded his statement by saying, “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.”
The scandal erupted when photos that show Kirkconnell dressed in Native American attire and attending an antebellum plantation-themed ball resurfaced on social media. She has since apologized for her actions. Kirkconnell is one of three contestants who made it to the final stage after the bachelor met with the contestants’ families. Some spoiler reports indicate that James and Kirkconnell now are considered to be “broken up.”
During an “Extra” interview with Lindsay, Harrison said of Kirkconnel’s past actions that people should have “a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion.” The former host also questioned the “lens” of 2021 compared to 2018.
Harrison garnered backlash for his remark. After offering two apologies, he announced that he would be stepping down for an unspecified amount of time — a move Lindsay deemed was “the right decision.”