Rachel Lindsay Calls Chris Harrison's Controversy 'Baffling' Given Bachelor's Past 'Racist Issues'
During an appearance on Monday's CNN Tonight, Lindsay, 35, pointed to the Bachelor franchise's history with racism while condemning Harrison after he defended contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist actions.
"We had racist issues on the show in 2017. There was a racist contestant [cast] for my season," Lindsay said. "In 2018, the lead picked someone who was liking racist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic things on social media. So we've dealt with this within the franchise."
Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette, said that she was "shocked" by Harrison's comments during the interview, in which he said that Kirkconnell deserved "compassion" after past social media posts of hers resurfaced — including Kirkconnell dressing up as a Native American person and attending an antebellum plantation-themed ball.
"I was shocked. I thought maybe [Harrison] misspoke," she said. "But when he continued down this path, I thought, 'Oh, no. This is really what he wants to say.' And I felt I needed to let him say it."
"He knew how to defend himself and what he represents," Lindsay added. "It was baffling to me that he was preaching grace and space and compassion, but you're talking to someone and you're not giving them that same thing or the community that she represents or the very people who are offended by the actions of the girl that you're defending. It really was baffling in the moment but I thought, 'If you're going to say this, then folks need to hear it.'"
Harrison, 49, initially apologized to Lindsay and also for "wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism" a day after his interview with the former Bachelorette was met with backlash. Then on Saturday, Harrison announced that he would be taking a "step aside" from the show.
During an interview with Extra, Lindsay said it's hard for her to "fully accept" Harrison's apology because it came "after the fact."
"I'm going to need that time and space and compassion that he referenced to really accept the apology, because [Chris wasn't] apologetic at first," she said. "I'm not saying I can't get there, it's just, initially, it's a little tough for me."
She also said that Harrison's comments were an example of implicit racism.
"There's implicit racism where you have these unconscious biases and stereotypes and misconceptions of certain groups, and that's what we were seeing in that interview, and I think it was a moment for people to recognize what was being said and to learn and grow from it, which is what we're seeing happen now with Chris," she explained.
On Saturday, in his second apology announcing his temporary departure, the longtime host wrote that he has "no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke."
"I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong," Harrison added. "To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry. My words were harmful. I am listening, and I truly apologize for my ignorance and any pain it caused you."
In a statement of her own, contestant Kirkconnell — who is on Matt James' current season of the ABC reality show — admitted that her "ignorance was racist" and said that she was "wrong."
"At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them," she said. "My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not ok or acceptable in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist," she said on Thursday.
She apologized "to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended," and said that she was "ashamed" of her ignorance and hopes to do better in the future.
"Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions," she continued. "I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong."