Rachel Lindsay and More Bachelor Stars Commend Matt James for Addressing Show's Racism Controversy
In a statement posted on Instagram Monday, James addressed Harrison's interview earlier this month with Rachel Lindsay, the franchise's first Black lead, in which Harrison failed to denounce current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist actions. James called the interview "troubling and painful to watch" and condemned Kirkconnell's "incredibly disappointing" behavior.
For more on Matt James' statement, listen below to the episode of PEOPLE Every Day.
Lindsay, 35, showed her support for James on social media, commenting "Yes Matt Yes" on his post, adding three clapping hands emojis.
"Always have and always will be proud of the kind, strong, compassionate stand up of a man you are," wrote Andi Dorfman, who knows James from their time living in New York City.
Former Bachelor Nick Viall also showed his support by "liking" the post.
While chatting with PEOPLE on Tuesday about the #Nicklaus4Kids 50/50 raffle campaign in support of Nicklaus Children's Hospital, Lindsay and her husband Bryan Abasolo applauded James for speaking out.
"I love to see it," said Abasolo. "Being the first male lead of color, he felt the need to address the troubling information that had come to light, and he wasn't going to wait until the end of the season to do it. I respect him for that. I'm looking forward to hearing more from him at the end, as he said, and also for him to be a leader who invokes institutional change within the franchise. I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say."
Added Lindsay, "I think a lot of people wanted to hear from Matt, and they did. I think he hit every single point within his statement and even told us, as Bryan just said, that there's more to come. He's got more to say."
The recent controversy arose when Kirkconnell, a 24-year-old frontrunner on James' season of The Bachelor, was called out for old social media posts which saw her dressed in Native American attire in costume and attending an antebellum plantation-themed college party in 2018. She has since apologized.
Harrison, 49, addressed the situation during an interview with Lindsay on Extra. During their 14-minute, unedited conversation, he said people should have "a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion" in the wake of the resurfaced photos and questioned the "lens" of 2021 compared to 2018. After receiving backlash for his comments, Harrison issued two separate apologies and announced that he would be stepping away from the franchise for an unspecified period of time.
In his statement, James, the franchise's first Black Bachelor, said that the situation — including the photos of Kirkconnell and the interview between Lindsay and Harrison — has been "devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly."
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"Chris' failure to receive and understand the emotional labor that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on by graciously and patiently explaining the racist history of the Antebellum South, a painful history that every American should understand intimately, was troubling and painful to watch," he continued. "As Black people and allies immediately knew and understood, it was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years."
James said the moment had pushed him "to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all of the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home."
"Like he said, he needs to take time to get educated and on a profound and productive level to use his word," she recently said on Extra. "And I think he needs to understand what was done, what was wrong, and what he said in that interview, and he needs time. He's stepped away to do that."