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‘Bachelor’ Host Apologizes For ‘Perpetuating Racism’ After Asking ‘For Grace’ For Embattled Contestant

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HE BACHELOR PRESENTS: LISTEN TO YOUR HEART - "Week 5 - Semi-Finals" - It's time to hit the road! After a tough round of judging and tearful goodbyes, the final four couples - Bri and Chris, Jamie and Trevor, Rudi and Matt, and Natascha and Ryan - take their relationships and performing talents to Las Vegas, traveling by luxury tour buses. Chris and Bri serenade a happy couple at their wedding. Jamie and Trevor use an empty arena as a backdrop to share their feelings for one another. Rudi and Matt are invited onstage by Reggae and dancehall icon Shaggy to sing backup on one of his hits. Natascha and Ryan let off steam by using heavy construction equipment to crush cars. The couples perform for this week's panel of judges, including Arie and Lauren Luyendyk Jr., music power couple Ashlee Simpson-Ross and Evan Ross, and Train front man, Pat Monahan, who decide who will move on to the finals and have their romantic and musical dreams come true on "The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart," MONDAY, MAY 11 (8:00-10:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (John Fleenor via Getty Images) CHRIS HARRISON
John Fleenor via Getty Images

“The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison has issued a formal apology for “perpetuating racism” after he requested that a Bachelor contestant be given “grace” and allowed to explain her attendance at a 2018 party with an “antebellum” theme.

Rachael Kirkconnell, who is the “frontrunner” to “win the heart” of the show’s first black male lead, Matt James, according to Yahoo News, reportedly appeared in photos dressed in antebellum attire for a “plantation-themed fraternity formal” in 2018.

The photo apparently gave rise to a full-fledged investigation into Kirkconnell’s background, conducted largely by social media sleuths, that turned up an unverified allegation that she’d shamed a former acquaintance for dating black men, and evidence that Kirkconnell’s parents voted for Donald Trump (the internet detectives sought Kirkconnell’s voting record but, it seems, could not find it).

Asked about the incident by the first black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, in an interview for the entertainment news show, “Extra,” Harrison asked fans of the reality dating show not to become “judge, jury, and executioner” over a photo posted to social media, and urged a “little grace, a little understanding” for Kirkconnell, who had yet to explain the photo herself.

“I haven’t talked to Rachael about it,” Harrison told Lindsay, per Yahoo. “We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion. Because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents, her parents’ voting record. It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. Until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this? I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that’s it.”

Lindsay pressed Harrison on the photo and Harrison suggested that because the photo was taken nearly four years ago, Kirkconnell should be given a chance to explain and, possibly, apologize.

“Well, the picture is from 2018 at an ‘Old South’ antebellum party,” [Lindsay] explained. “It’s not a good look.”

“Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?” Harrison asked.

“It’s not a good look ever because she’s celebrating the Old South,” Lindsay explained. “If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”

“I don’t disagree with you,” Harrison said. “You’re 100 percent right — in 2021. That was not the case in 2018. Again, I’m not defending Rachael. I just know, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018… that was a type of party that a lot of people went to.”

“My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time, they were 18 years old. Now, does that make it OK? I don’t know Rachel, you tell me,” he said. “Were we all looking through [that lens] in 2018?”

Harrison went on to say that the Bachelor does not push social issues, and pointed out that whatever happened in Kirkconnell’s past, it did not stop her from dating James.

The interview was considered unacceptable to woke fans of the show, it seems, and Harrison was forced to apologize for suggesting Kirkconnell should be allowed to defend or explain the photo. He tweeted out an official mea culpa Thursday morning, begging the “Bachelor Nation” for forgiveness.

“While I do not speak for Rachel Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,” Harrison wrote on Twitter. “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.”

He then apologized to Lindsay for doubting her analysis of the photo and for minimizing her pain.

“I promise to do better,” Harrison concluded.

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