Bachelor Ben Higgins Says He Faced Backlash for Condemning Hannah Brown's Use of N-Word
The former Bachelor said he would not condone "any type of racism" from his podcast listeners
On this week's episode of his iHeartRadio Almost Famous podcast, the former Bachelor and his co-host Ashley Iaconetti addressed the controversy, which unfolded last month when the Bachelorette star said the N-word while singing along to a song on Instagram Live.
The podcast episode comes amid nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd's death. Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck as Floyd said repeatedly he couldn't breathe and pleaded for the officer to stop.
"A lot has happened since we talked last," began Iaconetti, 32. "Two weeks, and the world is a difference place."
"Two weeks ago, Hannah Brown comes out and says the N-word on social media," said Higgins, 31. "And then Hannah disappears. Doesn't say anything. Like, she's gone, and we get criticism on this podcast because we said that Hannah was wrong for what she did. And Ashley, I'll stick to that."
Higgins then addressed the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the young black man who was fatally shot while on a jog in broad daylight in February after allegedly being chased down a suburban neighborhood street in Brunswick, Georgia, by two white men.
"You have a great young man running down the street, going for a job in the neighborhood and he's shot," he said. "And so it feels like at that point, a lot of our eyes and ears are open to racial injustice. How are we going to respond? I mean, hey, it's not a secret. There's two white people hosting this podcast. We are not experts on this topic. There's a lot of things that you and I do not know, a lot of things that we'll never be able to relate with, and a lot of things that we are learning. But Hannah Brown was wrong. What Hannah did was not right."
Still, Higgins and Iaconetti insisted that they "never insinuated canceling" or dismissing Brown, 25, who issued a lengthy video apology two weeks after the incident. (She initially apologized in a short statement posted on her Instagram Story.)
"My hope is that we turn to forgiving, loving, accepting Hannah but recognizing what she did was wrong," Higgins said. "What she said was wrong. If you're a Hannah fan, I urge you to hear what I'm saying. What she said was not right. Her apology was not great. ... Two weeks later, she comes out with an apology that I hope we can all listen to, as friends, as family, as fans. I hope we can hear what Hannah says, and hey, she has a lot to learn, but she's not saying what she did was right."
"I think everybody was begging for her to apologize and speak out because we were ready to forgive. I think the black community, from my friends that are black, from what Rachel Lindsay has said, from what Mike Johnson has said, they were ready to forgive but they wanted to hear from Hannah," he continued. "We heard from Hannah. And people have responded, and we're all learning."
Higgins then addressed his podcast listeners, saying it was "time to wake up."
"This isn't a funny topic, this isn't a fun topic. As I've heard from my black friends and as I've been educated over the last few weeks, I've realized how much I don't know," he said. "It's not easy to admit that I'm 31 years old and this is a topic that I know so little about. This crushes my soul."
"We're waking up, and I beg you, fans of the Almost Famous podcast, that if you don't like what I'm saying, if you don't like what the black community is saying right now, if you don't like the idea that black lives matter — and that's not to say that all lives don't matter, but there's a great parallel here where we say that if a neighbor's house is burning down and yours isn't, you're going to put water on the house that's burning down because it's a pressing issue," he explained. "It's the one that needs to be talked about right now. It's not saying that your house doesn't matter, your house 100 percent matters. But right now, we need to shout from the rooftops that black lives matter."
"And if you don't like what I'm saying, then I just ask that you leave this podcast," he continued. "Because quite frankly, the hate that's on our Facebook group and the negative comments that are coming in about the podcast ... those aren't the people I want to have around in this community."
"I want to have a group of people listening to this podcast that are listening to the voices and the screams and the cries of humans around them. Black humans, and people of color, saying, 'Listen to me, I'm hurting. Listen to me, learn from me, hear me.' I want those people listening to the podcast," he said. "I want those people a part of this group."
Higgins reiterated that he and Iaconetti would not condone "any type of racism" from their listeners.
"If at some point you're listening to this [and] the things that have happened over the last few weeks are not gravely concerning ... then I'm going to politely ask you to stop listening to this podcast," he said. "I don't want to push you away, I don't want to say this isn't a place for all. It is. But this is not a place for hate. When it comes to human beings and topics like racism, this is not the place for you if you're going to stand on the side of anti-black lives."
Iaconetti also took a moment to "applaud" Brown for her second apology.
"She posted a 20-minute apology. It was live on Instagram, and then she posted it to her main feed, and she talked about how she went silent for two weeks because she wanted to really educate herself," Iaconetti said. "She didn't want to just say 'I'm sorry' ... she really wanted to dive deep."
"I think that she is genuinely, sincerely sorry," she added. "I hope that people forgive her and I hope that people accept her apology and do believe that she is trying to become a better person and a more educated person."
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
- Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
- ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
- National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.