Matt James' Bachelor season has sparked a reckoning in Bachelor Nation. After several claims of racism were made against contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, host Chris Harrison's response to the situation led to a larger conversation about the franchise's handling of diversity and racism over the years. The current lead had been mostly quiet about the controversy up until this point, but that changed when he spoke out on Feb. 22. Matt James' statement about Rachael Kirkconnell and Chris Harrison doesn't hold back from calling out The Bachelor.
As one of the final four women on Season 25, Kirkconnell has emerged as a major frontrunner. But serious allegations about her past started surfacing on TikTok as James' season kicked off, and on Feb. 5, pictures of her at a 2018 plantation-themed fraternity party began circulating. Kirkconnell released a statement apologizing for her actions on Feb. 11, writing, "I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions."
But before Kirkconnell's apology, Harrison appeared on Extra on Feb. 9 and spoke to former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay about the claims. In defending Kirkconnell, he repeatedly dismissed Lindsay's points about racism and outraged many viewers as a result. On Feb. 13, Harrison apologized for his behavior on Instagram and announced he would be stepping down as Bachelor host for an unknown period of time.
The situation has led many Bachelor Nation stars to speak out about about the franchise's problematic handling of race over the years, including many members of the current Bachelor cast. James largely stayed silent as the controversy unfolded, posting a brief statement in support of Lindsay on his Instagram story on Feb. 12. But that changed on Feb. 22, when he released an official statement that doesn't hold back about Kirkconnell, Harrison, and the franchise as a whole.
"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 in the post, which he shared on Instagram and Twitter, adding that the situation has been "devastating and heartbreaking."
He continued: "Chris' 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 also noted that, "as Black people and allies immediately understood," Harrison's interview with Lindsay was indicative of a bigger problem withing the Bachelor franchise. "This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor Nation," he wrote. "It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home."
James concluded his statement by writing, "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."
While it's unclear how James' season will wrap up, it sounds like his "After the Final Rose" special will be one for the books.