Bachelor Nation Lands Itself in Hot Water After Racist Scandals

Sanaz Ahmadi, Senior Editor

The 25th season of the popular reality shows The Bachelor was highly anticipated as it marked the first season with a Black lead, Matt James. However, the season has been overshadowed by one of the contestants’ racist actions in the past. The drama started quickly after the season premiered when a now-viral TikTok was posted by a supposed former classmate of Rachael Kirkconnell, the contestant in question.

On Jan. 4, 2021, the night of the premiere, Tiktok user @maddyybierster posted a video accusing Kirkconnell of bullying her for liking Black men in high school. After the video went viral, this user posted messages she received from other people claiming they too were victims of this type of behavior from Kirkconnell. Despite the attention these accusations were getting, Kirkconnell did not respond to them.

These comments spurred fans of the franchise to delve deep into Kirkconnell’s past, looking into her social media accounts. After some investigating, people discovered that she has liked pictures on Instagram of her friends standing in front of the Confederate flag and appropriating Latino culture. She was also pictured wearing a Native American Halloween costume, appropriating their culture. Kirkconnell also shared dangerous QAnon theories and comes from one of the most racist counties in the country (Forsyth County, GA).

After weeks of silence from Bachelor Nation, an interviewer asked James about Kirkconnell’s actions. His response was somewhat vague as if he was beating around the bush.

“I have not spoken to anybody since the show ended, but I would say that you have to be careful about what you are doing on social media. Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people’s lives. So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully [Rachael] will have her time to speak on that,” said James.

Just when everyone thought they had uncovered all of her racist behavior, pictures emerged of Kirkconnell attending an Old-South antebellum-themed party in 2018. This was an event hosted by her sorority at Georgia College & State University; it is important to note that Old South parties were banned by the school’s fraternity board in 2016.

Soon after, former Bachelorette and the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, asked host, Chris Harrison, about the pictures in an interview on Extra. Harrison became defensive of Kirkconnell, drawing lots of criticism from fans and people in Bachelor Nation.

“I haven’t talked to Rachael about it, and this is where we need to have a little grace…because I have seen some stuff online—this judge, jury, executioner thing—where they’re just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into her parents and her parents’ voting record. It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this,” said Harrison.

Harrison has received much heat for not only defending her actions but also rudely speaking over and interrupting Lindsay for the entirety of the interview. He repeatedly used the phrase “woke police” to describe those condemning Kirkconnell’s behavior, which created anger among the public.

The aftermath of the interview led Harrison to temporarily step aside from the franchise after he apologized for his words and actions. On March 4, Harrison went on “Good Morning America” to publicly apologize and take accountability for his actions. 

“I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake and I own that,” Harrison told “Good Morning America.” 

He also apologized to Lindsay and urged people to stop sending her hate; Lindsay deactivated her Instagram account for a bit due to online bullies but returned eventually, accepting Harrison’s apology.

Finally, weeks after the accusations emerged, Kirkconnell posted an apology on her Instagram account.

“I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed of my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me. I am learning and will continue to learn how to be anti-racist because it’s important to speak up at the moment and not after you’re called out,” said Kirkconnell.

With the season coming to an end and Kirkconnell being a top contender, many fans await the After the Final Rose special that will air after the finale, giving viewers an update on where Matt is in his relationship now. However, this year’s event will focus heavily on the scandals that have unfolded over the past couple of months. Emmanuel Acho, former NFL player and author of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, will replace Harrison for this one night, leading many conversations about race. Fans are anticipating hearing more from Kirkconnell.