Last week, The Bachelor contestant—who is competing for the affection of Matt James, the first-ever Black Bachelor—received criticism after a Redditor shared photos of the Georgia native at a 2018 fraternity formal, which the social media user described as an "antebellum plantation themed ball." The pictures followed a series of accusations about Kirkconnell's alleged social media behavior, as well as an allegation from a TikTok user who claimed to have been bullied by the graphic designer in high school.
"First and foremost, I don't know," the franchise host said. "I haven't talked to Rachael about it. And this is, again, where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion. Because I've seen some stuff online—again this judge-jury-executioner thing—where people are just tearing this girl's life apart and diving into, like, her parents and her parents' voting record. It's unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven't heard Rachael speak on this yet. And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this?"
He then addressed the response to the reemerged photos, specifically. "I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that's it. Like, boom. Like, 'OK. Well, this girl is in this book now. And she's now in this group,'" he said. "I'm like, 'Really?'"
After hearing his answer, Lindsay pointed out "the picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party," noting "that's not a good look." Still, Harrison continued with his argument.
"Well, Rachel is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021?" he asked. "Because there's a big difference."
Lindsay made it clear "it's not a good look ever."
"Because she's celebrating the Old South," the lawyer-turned-Extra-correspondent said. "If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"
Harrison said he didn't disagree with her. "You're 100 percent right in 2021," he stated. "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."
He also assumed Kirkconnell didn't think through her actions at the time. "My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time. They were 18 years old," he said. "Now, does that make it OK? I don't know Rachel, you tell me. But where is this lens we're holding up and was that lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018? I don't know. I don't have these answers."
Rachel explained that's the problem. "You're right. We weren't looking through those lens and we should have been," the season 13 lead said. "And just because it was a popular party, you know, doesn't necessarily make it right."
She also said it's "frustrating" that the public hasn't heard from Kirkconnell, claiming that "there's nothing that contractually stops her" from speaking out. However, Harrison countered "it's a slippery slope" and that "you're not going to please everybody."
"The woke police is out there," he later added. "And this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions, I don't know how you are equipped when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this."
After he guessed Kirkconnell "needs a little time," Lindsay pointed out it's been weeks since the first allegations came out in January. However, Harrison said Kirkconnell will "have her time to speak." But it looks like it won't be at the Women Tell All as Harrison said she wasn't there.
As for whether The Bachelor franchise will address the allegations, Harrison said they wouldn't saying anything until Kirkconnell does.
"I don't think it is incumbent upon The Bachelor franchise to speak out on everything that everyone wants to hear about on social media," he said. "Just because, you know…the toxic relationships or bullying, or whatever, it's like, 'Why hasn't the franchise talked about this? Why hasn't it talked about Rachael?' We're not in the business of dealing with every problem that you have. That's not how this works. We don't have the time of day to handle everything that people come up with on social media. What I do think is interesting, is the show does push these social issues."
After the interview aired, Harrison received backlash and issued an apology.
"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 in part of a statement posted to Instagram. "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."
"I have not spoken to anybody since the show ended," he said earlier this month, "but I would say that you have to be really careful about what you are doing on social media. Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people's lives. So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully she will have her time to speak on that. There's a lot of stuff going around about the women that were involved in the show. I would just give them a chance to kind of have their piece, whether that is someone who was gone night one or someone who went home last night. Everyone has a story, and I would just be receptive to that."
E! News has reached out to Harrison's rep and ABC for comment.