The Bachelor server Chris Harrison (right) with present show lead Matt James.
Everything is not coming up roses for Chris Harrison. The longtime host of ABC’s Bachelor franchise continues to face backlash after trying to find remarks about photographs that reveal a present Bachelor contestant attending an antebellum-plantation-themed celebration. The contentious pictures evoke a painful interval in American history prior to the Civil War stopped captivity and also have sparked severe, soul-searching conversation among Bachelor lovers and former contestants regarding race, representation and responsibility. Some in so-called Bachelor Nation have called for the elimination of Harrison as sponsor of the popular relationship reality series and its spinoffs. Here’s that the brouhaha, broken down. What did Chris Harrison state (or not say)? During an Extra meeting with former Bachelorette celebrity and present TV server Rachel Lindsay, Lindsay broached photographs that had surfaced of Rachael Kirkconnell, that a contestant on year 25 of The Bachelor, broadcasting now. The pictures reveal her attending an antebellum-plantation-themed school fraternity party in 2018. The photos sparked strong response on social networking, as they provoke this racist history of the South prior to the Civil War. Matt James, celebrity of this present season, is that the series’s first Black guide, also Kirkconnell, that a 24-year-old picture designer from Cumming, Georgia, is supposed to be the one that he chooses to marry/date/appear on the pay of People magazine with later winnowing down his area of love pursuits. Kirkconnell has also been accused of enjoying racist Social Networking articles. Rachael Kirkconnell, revealed on a date together with Matt James on The Bachelor, is supposed to be his frontrunner.
“We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion,” that the 49-year old Harrison explained during the interview with Lindsay. “Because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents, her parents’ voting record. It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. Until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this? I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that’s it.”Harrison, host of The Bachelor since 2002, said that while he’s “not defending it,” people would not have examined a plantation party “under the same lens” in 2018 as they would in 2021, given the heightened consciousness of racial inequality amid the Black Lives Matter movement. Lindsay, the first ever Black Bachelorette and an outspoken advocate for diversity in the franchise, disagreed. “It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay said, emphasizing the photos’ implicit connection to slavery. “She’s celebrating the old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent?” Lindsay — who hosts a Bachelor Nation podcast and sometimes makes cameos on the show — has since said she won’t renew her contract the franchise when it runs out. “I’m exhausted. I have truly had enough,” Lindsay said on Friday’s episode of her Spotify Original Podcast Higher Learning.
How did the public react to Rachel Lindsay’s interview? Harrison has loyal supporters who are standing behind him and decrying the “woke police” and “cancel culture”: “People, lighten up a little,” wrote one Twitter supporter. Wrote another: “So sorry you had to apologize. I can’t believe everyone has become so sensitive.” Still, criticism has continued to mount, including on Twitter and the bachelor subreddit, where discussion of the controversy has overshadowed all other Bachelor buzz for days.
Chris Harrison said we shouldn’t judge her for going to a plantation themed party because “we weren’t as woke back then as we are now.” Pic is from 2018.I graduated in 2009. If I found out one of my friends went to a party like that, I’m slapping the shit out of them on sight.— Diggy Moreland (@diggymoreland) February 11, 2021
A number of high-profile contestants, including Mike Johnson, Taylor Nolan and former Bachelorette stars Tayshia Adams, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jillian Harris, have expressed disappointment in Harrison and his choice of words and have called on series producers to vet contestants more carefully. Matt James, the star of this season’s show, on Friday expressed his gratitude to Lindsay for continuing to shine a spotlight on representation and responsibility in the franchise, which fans have criticized for its lack of diversity. “I am beyond grateful to have Rachel as a mentor during this season,” James wrote on Instagram. “Your advocacy of BIPOC people in the franchise is invaluable, I stand with you and the rest of the women advocating for change and accountability.”
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The day before, almost every contestant of The Bachelor Season 25, including Kirkconnell, posted the same message on social media denouncing any “defense of racism.” “Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals,” the statement reads. “These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized.” “Rachel Lindsay continues to advocate with ‘grace’ for individuals who identify as BIPOC within this franchise,” the statement concludes. “Just because she is speaking the loudest, doesn’t mean she is alone. We stand with her, we hear her, and we advocate for change alongside her.”The men of season 16 of The Bachelorette — which preceded Matt James’ season of The Bachelor and featured two back-to-back leads, including Adams, who is Black — also released a statement “denouncing racist behavior and any defense thereof.” “We had the opportunity to be a part of one of the most diverse casts in the history of the franchise,” the statement reads. “The addition of more people who identify as BIPOC has opened up the conversation on race, community and who we are as people. A conversation that has been long overdue.”Has Chris Harrison apologized? He has. On Wednesday, he posted an apology to social media. “To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology,” it read. “I have this incredible platform to talk about love, and yesterday I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed.””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.”
Bachelor Nation, for those who don’t follow the reality TV franchise, refers to fans and former participants of the long-running romance show. You don’t need a visa to visit Bachelor Nation, just a TV or computer. Bachelor Nation is known for its vocal presence on social media, where weekly episodes spark an amusing run of memes and jokes that can get thousands of likes and comments. Reactions to the show’s drama and fast-tracked relationships are often funny and snarky, and that tone has seeped into the public treatment of Harrison that this week. Most of precisely the discussion has a somber tone, however.
Kirkconnell, for her part, issued her own apology, saying that “I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. I am sorry to the communities along with individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility into educate me.””I deserve to become held accountable for my actions,” she concluded. “I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don’t think one apology means that I deserve your forgivenessbut rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my own future activities.”