Emmanuel Acho Discusses Controversial 'Bachelor' Season Ahead of 'After the Final' 'Rose' Special

Emmanuel Acho was tapped to host After the Final Rose, the official conclusion to Matt James' season, after Chris Harrison took a step back from the franchise last month

Emmanuel Acho is looking forward to leading a historic iteration of The Bachelor's After the Final Rose.

On Wednesday, the former NFL star-turned-author appeared on Good Morning America to discuss his gig as host of the one-hour special. Airing Monday, it will mark the official conclusion to Matt James' season.

Acho was tapped after longtime host Chris Harrison announced last month that he was "stepping aside" from the ABC franchise following his widely criticized interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay.

"This is the most uncomfortable conversation in the history of the Bachelor franchise," Acho said of the controversy surrounding this past season. "Because it's not just about relationships, but now it's about race. We're intertwining race with relationships on one of the greatest unscripted shows in the history of television."

The controversy arose when Harrison, 49, appeared to defend the past racist actions of current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell during a conversation with Lindsay on Extra.

The ensuing public reaction was swift, with many calling for Harrison to be fired. He has since issued two apologies, and Kirkconnell has also apologized.

"My initial reaction was, 'Yikes. That's not a good look,'" Acho said of Kirkconnell's social media posts, which saw her dressed in Native American attire in costume and attending an antebellum plantation-themed college party in 2018.

"My secondary reaction was everybody pump the brakes, because there's a difference between being racist and racially insensitive or racially ignorant," Acho continued. "I believe her photos were racially insensitive and racially ignorant. Racial insensitivity and racial ignorance can play itself out as racism, but it doesn't necessarily classify someone as racist."

emmanuel acho
Emmanuel Acho. Chris Pavlica

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The Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man author, 30, also discussed his goals as host of the upcoming special.

"My mission for After the Final Rose is very, very, very simple: Allow my white brother and sisters who have watched the show and fell in love with Matt's story, to understand that Matt's love story and his journey of love is different than other journeys of love, particularly because of his complexion and his skin color," he said.

Acho also said he has spoken to Harrison on several occasions since the controversy.

"I've gotten to hear his heart," said Acho. "He'll admit this. He was ignorant and arrogant and you cannot be both. And when he said that to me, I was like, 'Well, you understand what caused this dilemma.'"

"I don't believe in cancel culture," Acho added. "I believe in accountability. I believe in understanding. I believe in growth. Now, if someone's intent is malicious, then by all means cancel them. But if someone's intent is not malicious, but their action still is, then educate them so that we can alter the intent and thus alter the act."

Earlier this month, Acho spoke to PEOPLE about the upcoming gig, calling it a "humbling opportunity."

"This is huge for me in the work for racial reconciliation," he said. "Because it shows that in the midst of turmoil, racial turmoil, across one of America's most watched shows over the last two decades, I'm seen as a thought generator."

"It's a privilege to be considered," he added.

Acho also has connections to the franchise: He was asked to compete on The Bachelorette twice, and it was Lindsay who encouraged him to create his web series and write his book.

"Emmanuel has been cultivating relationships with ABC for years," a source previously told PEOPLE. "He is very close with Rachel, and he has a close friendship with Becca Kufrin."

The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special will air on Monday at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, immediately following the season finale of The Bachelor.

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