Chris Harrison apologizes for defending 'Bachelor' frontrunner's antebellum-themed party photo

Taryn Ryder
·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·6 min read
Chris Harrison addresses controversy surrounding "Bachelor" frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell from Matt James's season. (Photo: ABC via Getty Images)
Chris Harrison addresses controversy surrounding "Bachelor" frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell from Matt James's season. (Photo: ABC via Getty Images)

2/10/21 UPDATE: On Wednesday, Chris Harrison apologized for the comments he made regarding Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, saying he 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 wrote. “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.” Harrison extended his apology to both his interviewer, Rachel Lindsay, and to Bachelor fans.

Chris Harrison wants people to show Rachael Kirkconnell “a little grace.”

The Bachelor host weighed in on the controversial contestant during an interview with former Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay. Kirkconnell, who is currently the frontrunner to win Matt James’s heart, has “just been thrown to the lions,” Harrison told Extra.

Kirkconnell has been embroiled in scandal for weeks. Photos emerged of the 24-year-old attending an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018. A TikTok user made unverified claims she was bullied by Kirkconnell for dating Black men. (James was cast as the first Black lead of The Bachelor in the show’s 18-year history.) People looked up the Georgia native’s voting record and the voting record of her parents as they appeared to support former President Donald Trump.

“I haven’t talked to Rachael about it,” Harrison told Lindsay. “We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion. 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.”

Lindsay pressed Harrison on that party photo.

“Well, the picture is from 2018 at an ‘Old South’ antebellum party,” she explained. “It’s not a good look.”

“Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?” Harrison asked.

“It’s not a good look ever because she’s celebrating the Old South,” Lindsay explained. “If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”

“I don’t disagree with you,” Harrison said. “You’re 100 percent right — in 2021. That was not the case in 2018. Again, I’m not defending Rachael. I just know, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018... that was a type of party that a lot of people went to.”

Harrison maintained he’s “not defending it,” but said people aren’t looking at the party “under the same lens” now.

“My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time, they were 18 years old. Now, does that make it OK? I don’t know Rachel, you tell me,” he said. “Were we all looking through [that lens] in 2018?"

“With Rachael, I think what’s frustrating… There’s nothing that contractually stops her from saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t true,’” Lindsay declared. (Kirkconnell has issued no public statement regarding the controversy.)

“Yeah, but it’s a slippery slope,” Harrison replied. “I saw something that said this person is a registered Republican, therefore they are this ... We have to be so careful when we start labeling people.”

Harrison speculated that Kirkconnell “needs a little time” before speaking out as she has never been in this position before.

“Well, it’s been six weeks,” Lindsay pressed. “We’ve seen problematic contestants before affiliated with the franchise, Rachael’s not the first. I think people have a question of will the franchise speak out and say something? Will she say come out and say something? Then you have another level that she is dating a Black man. It adds more complexity to it.”

Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell during their one-on-one date. (Photo: ABC via Getty Images)
Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell during their one-on-one date. (Photo: ABC via Getty Images)

“Where is the narrative of her falling in love with Matt?” Harrison asked. “When you are trying to react to something on social media, there is no grace ... I’m just going to give her the grace and the time to actually come out and speak.”

“Will the show address it or is this on Rachael?” Lindsay asked.

“It's first on Rachael,” Harrison noted. “The show does push these social issues and then we will talk about it, on the ‘Woman Tell All’ we do get into it… Rachael was not there and so we didn’t get into the Rachael of it all but, Rachael will have her time to speak. Hopefully, I will be there to have that debate with her and I will push her... I will try to hold her feet to fire as much as I can... I don’t think the show needs to speak before Rachael does.”

“I really agree with you on that,” Lindsay said. “I agree this is on her, not necessarily the show.”

“I respect her enough to allow her the courtesy of time and she can speak on her own,” Harrison concluded.

Harrison’s interview was not well received by many on social media.

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