WASHINGTON — "The Bachelor" star Matt James broke his silence Monday to address the ongoing racism controversy surrounding the ABC dating franchise.
"The reality is that I'm learning about these situations in real time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly," James, the first-ever Black "Bachelor," said in an Instagram post.
The host of the show, Chris Harrison, came under fire after an interview on “Extra” when he was asked about racially insensitive past behavior from “Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell.
Past photos of her resurfaced in which she is dressed in costume as a Native American and at an antebellum plantation-themed ball. Kirkconnell later issued an apology for what she calls her past “racist and offensive” actions.
In the interview, Harrison defended Kirkconnell against what he called the “woke police” on social media. “We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion," he said in the interview.
Harrison has since apologized, saying “my ignorance did damage” and he was “ashamed over how uninformed I was.” He said he would be stepping aside from his TV show “for a period of time” and will not be hosting the ”After the Final Rose" special that will follow the season finale of “The Bachelor.”
With several episodes still left to air, James said in the statement Monday that the past few weeks "have been some of the most challenging of my life." He added that it's "important that I take the time to address the troubling information that has come to light since we wrapped filming."
"This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from 'The Bachelor' nation," James wrote. "It has also pushed me to reevaluated and process what my experience on 'The Bachelor' represents, not just for me, but for the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home."
James ended his statement by saying that he is still continuing to process the experience of the show, and that his greatest prayer is that there is a "real and institutional change for the better."