TV | February 12, 2021 1:26 pm

“Bachelor” Cast Denounces Racism After Host Chris Harrison Downplays Offensive Photo

Harrison has since apologized for his comments

Chris Harrison of "The Bachelor"
Chris Harrison at ABC Television's Winter Press Tour on January 08, 2020.
Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

In an unprecedented move for reality TV, the entire female cast of this season of The Bachelor has released a joint statement denouncing racism after host Chris Harrison sparked controversy by defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, was forced to apologize after images of her attending a plantation-themed party, wearing insensitive Halloween costumes and liking offensive social media posts, including a photo of two people posed in front of a Confederate flag.

In a recent interview with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette, Harrison tried to downplay Kirkconnell’s transgressions, despite Lindsay explaining why the plantation party was “not a good look.”

“Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018?” Harrison asked her. “Or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”

“It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay responded. “Because she’s celebrating the Old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”

“You’re 100 percent right in 2021,” Harrison replied. “That was not the case in 2018. And again, I’m not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to. And again, I’m not defending it. I didn’t go to it.”

Of course, that line of thinking makes absolutely no sense. Racist celebrations of the antebellum South have been considered socially unacceptable by most people for quite some time, and to argue that no one knew just three years ago that it was bad to celebrate or make light of slavery is just ridiculous. Harrison eventually owned up to his mistake on social media, issuing an apology.

“To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology,” he wrote on Instagram. “I have this incredible platform to speak about love, and yesterday I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed. While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf. What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry. I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better.”

In the wake of Harrison’s comments, the cast of the show’s 25th season put out a statement on Instagram.

“We are the women of Bachelor Season 25,” it reads. “Twenty-five women who identify as BIPOC were cast on this historic season that was meant to represent change. We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism. Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized. Rachel Lindsay continues to advocate with ‘grace’ for individuals who identify as BIPOC within this franchise. Just because she is speaking the loudest, doesn’t mean she is alone. We stand with her, we hear her, and we advocate for change alongside her.”

The cast’s swift, public denunciation of racism is a far cry from the show’s problematic past, and it’s just the latest example of the ways in which the dating show has begun to tackle more serious, real-life issues. (You can read more about that trend here.)