The Bachelor star Rachael Kirkconnell is defending Rachel Lindsay after The Bachelorette alum left Instagram amid harassment from Bachelor Nation fans upset over a controversial interview with host Chris Harrison and his temporary departure from the franchise.
Lindsay and Harrison's conversation focused on resurfaced photos of Kirkconnell attending an antebellum-themed party, which sparked online accusations of racism. Several Bachelor Nation stars have rallied behind Lindsay, who many fans have bombarded with hateful messages over her part in the interview and have also blamed for Harrison's exit. On Saturday, Feb. 27, Kirkconnell herself joined them.
"You have the opportunity to make a positive difference, to use your energy towards change, and to come together and realize what's right in a time like this," she wrote on Instagram. "If you are choosing to rather spread hate, to send cruel, vicious messages, to be mad about people being hurt by racism...do better. Be better. Rachel Lindsay and other BIPOC have called for myself and others to be held accountable. This is needed, and she does not deserve the hate she is receiving."
Earlier this month, Lindsay interviewed Harrison for Extra. They two discussed a backlash over the leaked photos of Kirkconnell, taken in 2018. Harrison expressed sympathy for the Bachelor contestant and cited the "woke police." Lindsay, who in 2017 became the first Black leading star of the franchise, appeared visibly distressed by his responses. Harrison later announced he is "stepping aside" from his longtime role and apologized for "excusing historical racism."
Their debate, Harrison's apology and subsequent exit announcement were all also individually met with much criticism and many fans harassed Lindsay about her role in the overall controversy. She recently deactivated her Instagram amid the harassment.
"Recognize that she along with every person you send hateful messages to, are human," Kirkconnell wrote in her Instagram post on Saturday. "We are real people, and she should not have to disable her account to escape this toxicity. This is not okay. She is doing the hard work that needs to be done for change, and does not deserve to be silenced or ridiculed. If you are someone that has been cruel, find what fuels this hate in your heart, and fix it."
Kirkconnell, who is currently competing on Matt James' season of The Bachelor, had apologized following the initial backlash over her 2018 photos, writing on Instagram, "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."
Amid the controversy, and after Harrison made his announcement about "stepping aside" from Bachelor Nation, she said in an Instagram video, "There's also people that's messaging me saying, 'You've done nothing wrong, don't listen to people'...I think that the first big step in all of this is white people stepping up and taking accountability. Things will never change if we don't all work together in working towards this racial progress and this unity that we want."
Meanwhile, also on Saturday, ABC announced that former NFL player Emmanuel Acho will host the upcoming The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special in Harrison's place. The program is set to air on March 15.
Lindsay said on her Bachelor Happy Hour podcast last week, per Us Weekly, "You almost feel like you know everything you need to know about her in that picture. The fact that that's what she decided to do. Several people sent me that Story. Her apology was well-written, it was pretty and it was sincere. I'm not going to knock anyone's apology. But then the next step is to take action."