Chris Harrison apologizes for defending Bachelor contestant in interview that 'perpetuates racism'
Bachelor host Chris Harrison is apologizing for his comments defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell in an interview.
Kirkconnell, who is on the ABC show's current season, was allegedly photographed at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity ball in 2018. On TikTok, Kirkconnell also has been accused of racially insensitive behavior, such as liking photos containing the Confederate flag. Kirkconnell did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment, but on Thursday, the reality star issued an apology on Instagram.
Although she did not confirm specific accusations in the lengthy post, Kirkconnell wrote there were "truths that have come to light that I need to address."
"I'm here to say I was wrong. At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them," she posted. "My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist."
On Tuesday, Harrison came under fire while discussing the controversy in an interview with Extra correspondent and the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay. During the conversation, Harrison seemed to focus his ire on critics for attacking Kirkconnell for doing something he said "50 million people did" in 2018 while asking fans to have "a little grace" with Kirkconnell.
Harrison apologized for his remarks in an Instagram statement on Wednesday. "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," he said.
"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," he continued. "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. I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a 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."
In his Tuesday interview with Lindsay, Harrison said, "We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion. I've seen some stuff online, again this 'judge jury executioner' thing where people are just tearing this girl's life apart and diving into her parents and her parents' voting record. It's unbelievably alarming to watch this."
He added, "I haven't heard Rachael speak on this yet. And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this?"
Harrison then said Kirkconnell was simply "at a sorority party five years ago and that's it," which Lindsay corrected, saying, "The picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party. That's not a good look."
"Well, Rachel is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference," Harrison responded.
"It's not a good look ever," Lindsay said. "If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"
"You're 100 percent right in 2021," Harrison argued. "That was not the case in 2018. And again, I'm not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don't know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to. And again, I'm not defending it. I didn't go to it."
Harrison also surmised that Kirkconnell probably didn't know the painful history behind antebellum-themed events in America.
"My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time and they were 18 years old," he said. "Does that make it okay? I don't know Rachel, you tell me."
He later added that "this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions, I don't know how you are equipped when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this. And my guess is, this woman needs a little time."
Matt James, who is the first Black Bachelor, gave a measured response when asked about Kirkconnell. She and other women are currently vying for James' affection on season 25.
"I have not spoken to anybody since the show ended, but I would say that you have to be really careful about what you are doing on social media," James said. "Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people's lives. So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully, she will have her time to speak on that."
The Bachelor franchise is certainly not new to criticism around its lack of diversity, and former participants have been called out for problematic behavior in the past. In 2018, Bachelorette contestant Garrett Yrigoyen apologized after it came out that he had liked posts mocking Parkland students, trans people, undocumented immigrants, and others.
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