Matt James Reflects on "Frustrating" Rachael Kirkconnell Controversy After Breakup

During an interview on GMA, Matt James spoke to Michael Strahan about his breakup from Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell and why he wouldn't change this season.

By Jess Cohen Mar 16, 2021 1:23 PMTags

Matt James is speaking out after his breakup from Rachael Kirkconnell.

On The Bachelor's March 15 finale, viewers watched as Matt ultimately chose the graphic designer, though he decided not to propose. While Matt and Rachael enjoyed a "honeymoon" phase after filming wrapped—the feeling didn't last long. As Matt explained on After the Final Rose, he and Rachael broke up after racially insensitive photos of her surfaced online.

Rachael has since apologized and has vowed to educate herself after the images—showing her attending an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity party—emerged. However, as Matt told host Emmanuel Acho, he believes Rachael needs to do the work on her own rather than together as a couple.

On Tuesday, March 16, Matt appeared on Good Morning America to reflect on seeing Rachael for the first time after their split. "It hit me like a ton of bricks," he told GMA's Michael Strahan. "I felt the weight of everything that I was carrying throughout the season and with what we were dealing with as a country and having to explain that, why I think it's problematic to me and our relationship, which was extremely difficult."

A Brief History of Bachelor and Bachelorette Finales

While Matt said he'd been hoping for a future with Rachael, including an engagement and marriage, the revelations of her past changed things. As he explained, "When you find out the things I did, it deters you from that ultimate goal because—like I stated during After the Final Rose—there's just things that you might not understand what it means to be with someone like me."

ABC/Craig Sjodin

When asked if he felt like he "missed out" on exploring relationships with other women after learning of Rachael's past, Matt told Michael, "The conversations that have come from everything that's taken place are more important than anything I could've left with. And if that means that I leave under the circumstances that I left with, so be it."

During After the Final Rose, Rachael admitted that—while filming the show—she hadn't been worried about the controversial photos emerging because she didn't understand how hurtful they were at the time. "That's the frustrating part about the position that I'm in," Matt said, "is having to explain not only to Rachael but to the rest of America why things like that are problematic because we don't have that chance to have that ignorance. Think about Breonna Taylor, think about Tamir Rice, they didn't have that opportunity to have ignorance."

As for where Matt thinks Rachael is on her journey to understanding, he told Michael, "I know that Rachael's a good person and everything she outlined in her apology and her statement, I'm looking forward to seeing her do because I know she's capable of it."

ABC/Craig Sjodin

During his time on GMA, Matt also weighed in on Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe taking over hosting duties on The Bachelorette while Chris Harrison remains on temporary leave from the show. As fans may recall, the longtime Bachelor Nation host came under fire after defending Rachael's past behavior in a conversation with Rachel Lindsay. Soon after, Chris announced he's taking time away from the ABC series.

"I'm excited, it's a fresh start and we need more women hosting," Matt said of the hosting change. "It was the right move."

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