Atlanta ‘Bachelor’ contestant Rachael Kirkconnell apologizes for past ‘offensive and racist’ actions

Sarah is at the center of an emotional firestorm that envelops Matt and the other women as the rose ceremony continues. A steamy group date, featuring Bachelor Nation favorite Ashley Iaconetti Haibon, offers the women a chance to write their own hot love scenes with Matt and read them to him in front of a live audience. Serena P. finds out if her initial feelings for Matt could develop into something more serious. And even though his journey just started, Matt's biggest fear comes to pass, leaving him devastated on "The Bachelor," airing MONDAY, JAN. 18 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)
MATT JAMES, RACHAEL
Sarah is at the center of an emotional firestorm that envelops Matt and the other women as the rose ceremony continues. A steamy group date, featuring Bachelor Nation favorite Ashley Iaconetti Haibon, offers the women a chance to write their own hot love scenes with Matt and read them to him in front of a live audience. Serena P. finds out if her initial feelings for Matt could develop into something more serious. And even though his journey just started, Matt's biggest fear comes to pass, leaving him devastated on "The Bachelor," airing MONDAY, JAN. 18 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Craig Sjodin) MATT JAMES, RACHAEL

Credit: ABC

Credit: ABC

Host Chris Harrison defends her actions and gets blowback, will take a break from the show.

Rachael Kirkconnell, a 24-year-old Cumming graphic designer and one of the final four contestants still in the running for Matt James’ heart on ABC’s 25th season of “The Bachelor,” apologized last week for problematic social media posts and photos that surfaced online.

The controversy began when a viral TikTok video claimed Kirkconnell had “liked” posts with the Confederate flag on it and shared QAnon conspiracy theories. Then earlier this month, on Reddit, a photo surfaced of Kirkconnell in 2018 attending an “Old South” plantation-themed college party.

“At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them,” Kirkconnell wrote. “I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”

Kirkconnell, who is white, is seeking to be the potential bride of the first African American “Bachelor.”

They had an immediate connection from the moment she stepped out of the limousine, and she has consistently been one of his favorites. Over the first six rose ceremonies, he has picked her first twice, and she has never been ranked below seventh. She was his second pick this past Monday night’s episode.

During the Feb. 1 pre-taped episode, she told James she loved him, and he returned the favor. On Monday night’s episode, singer and social activist Aloe Blacc performed a private concert for Kirkconnell and James. James will meet Kirkconnell’s family in Atlanta during next Monday’s episode as part of the “hometown” visit portion of the show.

Nobody acknowledged whether the posts were legitimate until late last week when Kirkconnell posted an Instagram apology.

She wrote in that apology that she is “ashamed about my lack of education,” and she is “learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist... 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.”

Last week, long-time “Bachelor” host Chris Harrison defended Kirkconnell’s past behavior while being interviewed by Rachel Lindsay, the first Black “Bachelorette,” on Extra, saying he is not “the woke police.”

But he then became a target himself and had to apologize, too.

“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,” he wrote Saturday. “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 firsthand 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.”

Harrison said he’s going to step away from the show as host for an unspecified time, though the entire season is already pre-taped. In the short term, this effectively only keeps him off the “After the Rose” live special that airs after the season finale.

The female cast of “The Bachelor” also released a joint note regarding Harrison’s initial comments: “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 [Black, Indigenous People and People of Color] individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized.”

Lindsay herself said she will no longer be associated with “The Bachelor” after her current contract is up.

“I’m exhausted. I have truly had enough,” Lindsay said on her Higher Learning podcast following her interview with Harrison. “How much more do I want to be affiliated with this? I said I was gonna leave if they didn’t have leads of color. OK, they did that, and they made some other changes. They hired a diversity consultant. Who didn’t attend the class? Did Chris Harrison not sit through that? I can’t take it anymore. I’m contractually bound in some ways. But when it’s up, I am too.”

WHERE TO WATCH

“The Bachelor,” 8 p.m. Mondays on ABC

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