After weeks of controversy, Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell has released a statement apologizing for images that have surfaced of her attending a plantation-themed party, donning insensitive Halloween costumes, and “liking” offensive social media posts—including one in which two people are posed in front of a Confederate flag. And in a surprising, unprecedented move, the season’s entire cast has posted a shared statement to their social media denouncing racism.
“While there have been rumors circulating, there have also been truths that have come to light that I need to address,” Kirkconnell wrote in a statement Thursday night. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. 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.”
“I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended,” Kirkconnell continued. “I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it’s no one’s responsibility to educate me. I am learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist, because it’s important to speak up in the moment and not after you’re called out. If you are a person who doesn’t understand the offense in question, I urge you to learn from my mistakes and encourage you to use them as a teachable moment.”
Bachelor diehards have spent this season wondering when, if ever, Kirkconnell would address the images, which are particularly troubling considering her frontrunner status in competing for the heart of the first Black Bachelor, Matt James.
During a recent interview with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette, Bachelor host Chris Harrison tried to smooth things over, downplaying Kirkconnell’s transgressions despite Lindsay clearly expressing why the images and rumors about her racist behavior were so troubling. The nearly 14-minute interview stayed friendly throughout, but it did not sit well with fans.
Harrison called for viewers to go easy on Kirkconnell—despite Lindsay pointing out precisely why the photo of Kirkconnell at a plantation party in particular was “not a good look.”
“Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018?” Harrison replied at one point. “Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”
“It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay said. “Because she’s celebrating the Old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”
“You’re 100 percent right in 2021,” Harrison said. “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.”
On Thursday, Harrison apologized for his remarks.
“To my Bachelor Nation family—I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology,” Harrison wrote on Instagram. “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.”
“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,” Harrison 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.”
Now, it appears Matt James’ entire cast cast is holding the franchise accountable as well with a shared statement on Instagram.
“We are the women of Bachelor Season 25,” the contestants write. “Twenty-five women who identify as BIPOC were cast on this historic season that was meant to represent change. We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism. Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. 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 Bachelor has a spotty history with race, to put it mildly. The franchise waited nearly two decades to choose a Black Bachelor, and 13 seasons to choose a Black Bachelorette. In its early years, it was accepted wisdom that women of color would generally not make it beyond the first few weeks.
Lindsay Smith, who competed on The Bachelor Season 10 in 2006, reflected on her experience in an essay for Vox, in which she recalled being the only Black woman in the season, despite producers’ promise that this would not be the case. She also noted that on at least one occasion, “producers were intentionally creating an environment where I would feel uncomfortable due to my race.”
“I left the series disgusted,” Smith wrote. “When the show aired, I remember watching myself within the contours of a highly edited storyline—reduced to the stereotype of a hysterical woman. It was a jarring and shameful experience.” The show declined to comment at the time.
There’s also the issue of contestants with troubling social media histories somehow passing the show’s screening process. In Rachel Lindsay’s season, for instance, screenshots surfaced of racist tweets allegedly from contestant Lee Garrett—posts including, for example, “What’s the difference between the NAACP and the KKK? Wait for it…One has the sense of shame to cover their racist a– faces.” Lindsay wound up dealing with a race-based feud involving Garrett during her season, a burden that she should never have faced during her quest for love. And then there was Garrett Yrigoyen, who won Becca Kufrin’s season only after viewers had surfaced screenshots in which it appeared he’d “liked” posts mocking Parkland survivors, trans people, and undocumented immigrants, among others.
It’s for these reasons that seasoned viewers knew all along that one Black Bachelor would not be enough to rectify this franchise’s fraught relationship with race. But Kirkconnell’s statement, seemingly released in a coordinated effort alongside her castmates, feels like a big step in the right direction. Although Kirkconnell does not get into specifics regarding the accusations, she also seems sincere in her regret and committed to moving forward constructively.
“As I was thinking about what I wanted to say,” Kirkconnell wrote, “I couldn’t help but think about how sick people must be of reading these kinds of statements; how a person didn’t realize the trauma that their actions would inflict on other people. It must get so exhausting. I want to put my energy towards preventing people from making the same offensive mistakes that I made in the first place, and I hope I can prove this to you moving forward.”
“Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability,” Kirkconnell concluded, “and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions. I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don’t think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions.”
Representatives for ABC and Warner Bros. did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment regarding Kirkconnell or Harrison’s conversation with Lindsay.