Bachelor Nation Reacts to Chris Harrison's Controversial Defense of Rachael Kirkconnell

After Chris Harrison apologized for his remarks about contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's alleged past actions, many past contestants from The Bachelor franchise spoke out about the host.

By Mike Vulpo Feb 11, 2021 9:05 PMTags
Watch: Chris Harrison Teases Matt James' "Bachelor" Contestants

Chris Harrison has found himself in a very dramatic situation.

Last week, The Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell—who is competing for the affection of the first-ever Black Bachelor Matt James—came under fire after a Reddit user shared photos of the Georgia native attending a fraternity formal. The 2018 event was described by the poster as an "antebellum plantation themed ball." Rachael has also faced criticism for alleged past social media behavior.

On Feb. 9, Chris appeared on Extra with Rachel Lindsay, the franchise's first Black Bachelorette, and was asked about the situation. His answer immediately raised eyebrows. 

"I haven't talked to Rachael about it," he shared. "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?"

Rachel was quick to say the photos are "not a good look ever." And on Feb. 10, Chris apologized for his remarks and acknowledged that what he said "perpetuates racism."

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"To my Bachelor Nation family—I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology," he 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."

Since the controversy first began, many former contestants have spoken out on social media. Keep scrolling to see what Bachelor Nation thinks of Chris' handling of the situation and what comes next for ABC's long running franchise.

Olivia Caridi

Season 20 of The Bachelor with Ben Higgins

"Attending a plantation-themed party, or defending someone who did so, isn't celebrating history. It's PRESERVING it, normalizing white power structure, and disregarding enslaved African Americans who lived in terror and were treated as property," she tweeted, later adding, "I keep getting messages from white people saying, 'It's just a dress...or just a party, celebrating history.' (1) Racism is not some relic of our past. It exists today. Going to a plantation-themed ball is glorifying racism that STILL EXISTS TODAY. It damn sure existed in 2018."

Caridi also endorsed blogger Reality Steve's idea of having The Bachelorette stars Rachel Lindsay be considered to take over hosting duties, tweeting, "Absolutely should be Rachel considering she had to endure that interview."

Women of The Bachelor Season 25 With Matt James

"We are the women of Bachelor Season 25," read a statement posted on several of the cast members' Instagrams after Chris Harrison's controversial interview with The Bachelorette alum Rachel Lindsay over their co-star Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist behavior, for which she has apologized. "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 continued. "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."


Vanessa Grimaldi

Season 21 of The Bachelorette With Nick Viall

She issued the following statement on Instagram: "While there are areas of focus The Bachelor franchise certainly needs to work on, the issue of race/racism is a priority. As a former white contestant on the show, there is a lot that I am still educating myself on/unable to relate to that directly affects my BIPOC Bachelor friends. But that does not mean I shouldn't speak up."

"As a former member of the franchise - for the people who follow us, the people who follow the show and other contestants - we have a collective duty to stand by our BIPOC Bachelor members when issues of racism/defense of racist behavior occur within the franchise. And denounce it."

"While the show may provide a source of entertainment, it has also provided a much needed platform to bring up so many important issues. Issues that I myself am learning from."

"I am not perfect and recognize that I need to do my own work and learn to lean into these uncomfortable conversations. Because that will lead to growth. I encourage Bachelor fans to be open to these conversations, as there is so much more to the show/contestants' lives than what we see on TV."

Bekah Martinez

Season 22 of The Bachelorette With Arie Luyendyk Jr.

After Chris Harrison published his apology post announcing his temporary departure from the Bachelor franchise, a user commented under it that the host "DID NOTHING WRONG," adding, "We stand behind you in this, the world sucks when you can't say ANYTHING without people complaining!"

Martinez responded to the user, writing, "aaaaaand cue the angry white women."

Lacy Faddoul

Season 18 of The Bachelor With Juan Pablo Galavis—the franchise's first Latino leading star since the original show's 2002 debut, and Season 1 of Bachelor in Paradise:

"This show is about love.....Love wins!" she wrote on social media.

Hannah Brown

Season 15 Lead of The Bachelorette

"Hey yall, I've been catching up and reading about everything that's been going on in Bachelor Nation and Lord knows I've made mistakes," Brown said on her Instagram Story after the initial backlash over Harrison's comments. "But I have learned this past year if we want to move forward, we have to confront where we have fallen short. And it's so important that we lift up and listen and value and encourage under represented voices."

Brown, who faced her own racism controversy in 2020, continued, "We just have to be better and while being accountable has helped me evolve so much, and I'm still not a perfect person but I do remain committed to the work. And I'm so humbled and truly grateful to be on this journey and could only hope that I encourage others to go on the journey as well."

Clare Crawley

Season 16 Lead of The Bachelorette

"I haven't known the right words to express my disappointment with Chris and Rachel's interview," she wrote in a statement shared to her Instagram Story. "I have been really understanding the magnitude of how racist behavior, and racism impacts our society and perpetuates ignorance and oppression. I have been listening to conversations and discussions as an ally, and will always continue to learn, denounce and support BIPOC in the fight against racism."

"To my friend Rachel: You are a force of strength, empowerment, and composure as you have continually shown up as a voice to create change not only within this franchise, but far beyond. You are not alone."

Ben Higgins

Season 20 Lead of The Bachelor

"This afternoon I watched the interview with Chris and Rachel. Chris' statements were harmful. They were not helpful. They hurt many. He is my friend, and sometimes friends do things we have to speak out against. I cannot agree with the comments he made. This is a teachable moment for us all. We have to continue to learn, grow, and become better."

Nick Viall

Season 21 Lead of The Bachelor

"After seeing Chris's very disappointing and harmful interview with Rachel, I have spent the past two days speaking with many people from Bachelor Nation including those involved. This is a teachable moment for us all. It can be uncomfortable to recognize our own ignorance, but without recognition there can be no accountability and growth."

Astrid Loch

Season 21 of The Bachelor with Nick Viall

"What I saw was not only hurtful to BIPOC but shameful and inexcusable from the host of one of the biggest shows on television. Unfortunately, I think there are many people who agree with his views which shows us just how much work there is left to be done."

Becca Kufrin

Season 14 Lead of The Bachelorette 

"You are not alone [Rachel Lindsay]. I will continue to have your back and advocate for and alongside you in any way, shape, or form. Your soul and passion will never be dimmed as long as you continue to be you."

Sean Lowe

Season 17 Lead of The Bachelor

"Let me be clear, I don't condone racism of any kind. Hopefully you knew that about me already. But what I will do is extend grace to a man who's apologized and promised to be better with the use of his platform. Why? Because that's what God commanded of me. I'm sure some will disagree with me but I'm just going to follow the example of Jesus on this one."

Blake Horstmann

Season 14 of The Bachelorette with Becca Kufrin

"I am struggling to find the right words to encompass how disappointed I am in the recent interview with Chris Harrison. I want to become a better ally and part of that is acknowledging the platform I have and using it to condemn racism and to lift up Black voices."

Becca Tilley

Season 19 of The Bachelor with Chris Soules

"Rachel was a queen honestly. I thought she handled herself with so much grace and she was patient...I want to applaud Rachel Lindsay because she does a lot for this franchise." 

Pieper James

Season 25 of The Bachelor With Matt James 

"Black women in this franchise must always be hyper aware of our 'grace' because no one is extending it to us." 

Katie Morton

Season 23 of The Bachelor with Colton Underwood

"Rachel held her f--king composure while she was in a pretty s--t position. Chris Harrison was so so wrong and I hope he can see that, although doubtful. It's all disappointing and maddening." 

MyKenna Dorn

Season 24 of The Bachelor with Peter Weber

"I am disgusted at the ignorant behavior of Chris Harrison during his interview with Rachel Lindsay. Yes, in the past year, conversations have sparked about racism but racism has always existed. Just because something happened in 2018, does not mean you get a pass. I don't agree with cancel culture but I do agree and stand for taking responsibility and accountability for your actions. I want to be clear that I do not agree with Chris' behavior and that him and the franchise must do better."

Kit Keenan

Season 25 of The Bachelor with Matt James

"Yes, 2020 has spurred greater awareness of white privilege. That doesn't mean racist behavior in the past should be excused nor does it mean our work here is done. For people of color within the Bachelor franchise, viewers and beyond, I see you and I hear you. Silence is complicity." 

Mike Johnson

Season 15 of The Bachelorette with Hannah Brown

"Just checked out the Chris and Rachel interview on Extra. Rachel, you were super eloquent in that and you spoke about things that some people may not know about but need to hear. Chris you disappointed me." 

Khaylah Epps

Season 25 of The Bachelor with Matt James

"Yesterday was incredibly upsetting. To see someone do straight up gymnastics to try and excuse racist behavior is inexcusable and a direct slap in the face. And just on some personal s--t, the way I would be portrayed on tv ATE. ME. ALIVE for weeks after I went home bc I know 'grace' is never extended to Black women. So to see who is deserving of 'grace' and who isn't? K."

Onyeka Ehie

Season 23 of The Bachelor with Colton Underwood

"Ridiculous how many cast members, including myself, received NUMEROUS racist messages but never did we receive any acknowledgement from production. I guess our grace and compassion got lost in the mail??? The double standard makes me sick."

Tammy K Ly

Season 24 of The Bachelor with Peter Weber

"It's crazy how hard this franchise will protect its cookie cutter contestants but wouldn't give half of that energy to their contestants of color. I'm not s--tting on it at all. We were there when Black people needed to be stood up for. And we did that and happily will always stand up for that. Now we're asking if you can please stand up for us."

Ashley Spivey

Season 15 of The Bachelor with Brad Womack

"Let's also talk about how he kept saying 'the lens of 2018.' Well in 2018 we were talking about Garrett's racist and bigoted likes so yeah it was still a problem back then. The thing was, Chris was the only one defending it then too." 

Taylor Nolan

Season 21 of The Bachelor with Nick Viall

"Chris Harrison Foolery," the Let's Talk About It podcast host wrote on Instagram before sharing a video message to her followers. 

Diggy Moreland

Season 13 of The Bachelorette with Rachel Lindsay

"Chris Harrison said we shouldn't judge her for going to a plantation themed party because 'we weren't as woke back then as we are now.' Pic is from 2018. I graduated in 2009. If I found out one of my friends went to a party like that, I'm slapping the s-t out of them on sight.

"In addition: 1. Y'all had a known racist on my season with an African American lead....2. Y'all pull this bulls--t by having Rachel on Matt's season and conveniently 'missing' this blip in her past. Y'all sleep in the vetting department the last few years, or nah?"

Sydney Hightower

Season 24 of The Bachelor with Peter Weber

"I have said it before and I'll say it again. The @BachelorABC franchise is a dark place for the African American community. They glorify and promote a blue collar, white washed version of perfection and refuse to show any grace or social repercussions for blatant racism."

Jubilee Sharpe

Season 20 of The Bachelor with Ben Higgins

"Wish I could say this Chris Harrison interview and him defending racist behavior was shocking...but it's not. Thank God he's retiring." 

Ivan Hall

Season 16 of The Bachelorette with Tayshia Adams

"There's power in numbers" 

Michael Garofola

Season 9 of The Bachelorette with Desiree Hartsock

"Or we could just stop providing platforms and undeserved fame to racists and white supremacists altogether...." 

Kristin Hopkins

Season 25 of The Bachelor with Matt James

"Toni Morrison always had the right words," Kristin wrote on Twitter when sharing a quote that read: "The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being." 

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