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Matt James speaks out about racism controversy and Chris Harrison’s departure from The Bachelor

Matt James has opened up about ongoing controversies on The Bachelor about contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s allegedly racist actions and Chris Harrison’s widely derided response to them.

The 29-year-old Bachelor shared his thoughts in a statement posted Monday to Instagram after largely staying silent on the issue.

He called the scandal one ‘of the most challenging of my life’ and offered a stirring defense of his ‘friend’ Rachel Lindsay, who got into a heated argument with host Chris Harrison on the topic of Kirkconnell’s actions. 

Speaking out: Matt James, 29, shared his feelings on Rachel Kirkconnell’s racism controversy on the Bachelor, along with Chris Harrison’s departure, in an Instagram statement shared Monday

The Bachelor hasn’t yet finished airing the current season, but James wanted to get a head start ahead of the highly anticipated finale.

‘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,’ he began.  

‘The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly.’

Aside from initially noting the controversy over Kirckconnell’s social media posts, the Bachelor zoomed in on Harrison, who said he is ‘stepping aside’ for an undisclosed amount of time from the series.

Honing in: Aside from initially noting the controversy over Kirckconnell's social media posts, the Bachelor zoomed in on Harrison, who said he is 'stepping aside' for an undisclosed amount of time from the series

Honing in: Aside from initially noting the controversy over Kirckconnell’s social media posts, the Bachelor zoomed in on Harrison, who said he is ‘stepping aside’ for an undisclosed amount of time from the series

Let down: '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 ... was troubling and painful to watch,' he continued

Let down: ‘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 … was troubling and painful to watch,’ he 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,’ he 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. 

‘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 post, and for you, the viewers at home,’ he wrote.

‘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,’ he concluded.

Bad look: The racism controversy erupted when photos surfaced of Kirkconnell, who is still in the running on the series, at an 'Old South' plantation-themed frat formal in 2018

Bad look: The racism controversy erupted when photos surfaced of Kirkconnell, who is still in the running on the series, at an ‘Old South’ plantation-themed frat formal in 2018 

Social media: She also allegedly liked photos online of friends in Donald Trump–supporting MAGA hats and images that prominently featured Confederate flag displays; still from The Bachelor

Social media: She also allegedly liked photos online of friends in Donald Trump–supporting MAGA hats and images that prominently featured Confederate flag displays; still from The Bachelor

Insensitive: Other images appeared to show Kirkconnell dressed in costumes modeled on Native American dress, which many native people find offensive

Insensitive: Other images appeared to show Kirkconnell dressed in costumes modeled on Native American dress, which many native people find offensive

The racism controversy erupted when photos surfaced of Kirkconnell, who is still in the running on the series, at an ‘Old South’ plantation-themed frat formal in 2018.

She also allegedly liked photos online of friends in Donald Trump–supporting MAGA hats and images that prominently featured Confederate flag displays.

Other images appeared to show Kirkconnell dressed in costumes modeled on Native American dress, which many native people find offensive.

Harrison appeared to defend Kirkconnell in a car-crash interview with Lindsay in which he urged for people to show the contestant ‘compassion’ and hit out at the ‘woke police.’

Fighting back: Harrison appeared to defend Kirkconnell in a car-crash interview with Lindsay in which he urged for people to show the contestant 'compassion' and hit out at the 'woke police'; Kirkconnell with James on The Bachelor

Fighting back: Harrison appeared to defend Kirkconnell in a car-crash interview with Lindsay in which he urged for people to show the contestant ‘compassion’ and hit out at the ‘woke police’; Kirkconnell with James on The Bachelor

Perspective: 'Is it [not] a good look in 2018? Or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference,' Harrison said; still from The Bachelor

Perspective: ‘Is it [not] a good look in 2018? Or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference,’ Harrison said; still from The Bachelor

‘Is it [not] a good look in 2018? Or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference,’ Harrison said. 

‘The woke police is out there. And 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.’

He called on people to ‘have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion’.

‘Because I’ve seen some stuff online… again, this ‘judge, jury, executioner’ thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart,’ he added. 

The comments sparked outrage from former and current Bachelor contestants, including Kirkconnell, who shared a statement criticizing them.

‘Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized,’ the group wrote.

Denounced: Harrison's heated interview with Rachel Lindsay was condemned by current and former Bachelor contestants, including Kirkconnell; Lindsay seen on Extra

Denounced: Harrison’s heated interview with Rachel Lindsay was condemned by current and former Bachelor contestants, including Kirkconnell; Lindsay seen on Extra

Fans took to social media to call for Harrison’s firing while Lindsay said she will not renew her contract with Warner Bros., the studio behind the franchise.  

Since then, Harrison has issued a statement saying he will be stepping back from all Bachelor shows for a ‘period of time,’ though he hasn’t specified how long or if he was suspended from the franchise.

‘I have spent the last few days listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful,’ Harrison wrote on Instagram. 

‘My ignorance did damage to my friends, colleagues and strangers alike. I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke. 

‘By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term ‘woke police,’ which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uniformed I was. I was so wrong.’

Apologies: 'By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term 'woke police,' which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uniformed I was. I was so wrong,' Harrison wrote on Instagram

Apologies: ‘By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term ‘woke police,’ which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uniformed I was. I was so wrong,’ Harrison wrote on Instagram


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