It all started when Harrison was asked about Kirkconnell during a sit-down with Rachel Lindsay for an interview with ExtraTV.
“First and foremost, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to Rachael about it. And this is again where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion because I have seen some stuff online, again, this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart. … It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet, and until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this? I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that’s it, like, boom, like okay this girl is in this book now and she’s now in this group, and I’m like, ‘Really?'” Harrison told Lindsay.
Fans were quick to criticize Harrison, with a Reddit thread topping 350 comments at the time of publishing and many people calling for Harrison to lose his job.
Warning: Bachelor spoilers ahead.
Here’s what you need to know:
Chris Harrison Said It’s Rachael Kirkconnell’s Responsibility to Talk About Her Past & He ‘Respects Her Enough’ to Allow Her to Speak for Herself
Harrison told Lindsay he wanted to talk with Kirkconnell about the controversy, including the photos of her at an “antebellum plantation themed ball” in 2018, as the Reddit user who shared them called it.
When pressed by Lindsay, who called the photos “not a good look,” Harrison pushed back. “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”
Lindsay asked what she would have represented had she been at the “Old South” party. “I don’t disagree with you. You’re 100% right in 2021. That was not the case in 2018. And you know 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. … We are not looking under the same lens. ”
He argued that rather than considering the historical implications of the party, “These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time. They were 18 years old. Now does that make it OK? I don’t know Rachel, you tell me. But where is this lens we’re holding up and was that lens available and were we all looking through it in 2018? I don’t know.”
Lindsay said she’s frustrated that Kirkconnell hasn’t spoken out. “I think if it were me and my name was being attached to something that wasn’t true, I would be coming out and saying something,” she said. “That’s what makes it fester a little bit.”
Harrison defended Kirkconnell, suggesting she “needs a little time” to “have some perspective, to try and drink this in for a second, see how this affects their life, and then speak on it.” Lindsay argued that the six weeks since the photos came to light was more than enough time.
Harrison said he thinks she’ll share an “eloquent enough reason” eventually. “I’m just going to give her the grace and the time to come out and speak.”
He said the franchise doesn’t need to address the issue before Kirkconnell does.
“The show does push these social issues and then we will talk about it, on the ‘Women Tell All’ we do get into it. Rachael was not there, and so we didn’t get into the Rachael of it all, but Rachael will have her time to speak. Hopefully, I will be there to have that debate with her and I will push her. You know me well enough. I will push her. I won’t make it uncomfortable. I will try to hold her feet to the fire as much as I can,” Harrison said.
“I don’t think the show needs to speak before Rachel does. I don’t think that’s fair,” Harrison added.
Lindsay agreed, saying that she felt that the responsibility to speak out on the matter was on Kirkconnell, not on the show.
“Whatever we say puts her in a box that now, where does she go? And that will dictate the course of action she has to take, and that will, in turn, make this insincere. So that’s not fair,” Harrison said. “If I say something today of like, ‘Rachael is this’ or ‘Rachael is not this,’ that determines where this conversation goes, and that’s not fair for Rachael. I respect her enough to allow her the courtesy of time and she can speak on her own,” he added.
According to spoilers, Kirkconnell is the winner of this season of The Bachelor. While she and Matt James are not engaged, Reality Steve has confirmed that the two are still dating. Lindsay pointed out that it’s even more important for Kirkconnell to speak out because there’s another layer to everything; “she’s dating a Black man.”
Kirkconnell has not yet made a statement about her past behavior.
Critics Created a Petition Demanding Harrison’s Removal as Host of the ‘Bachelor’ Franchise Shows
Reddit users have called for Harrison “to go,” with at least one commenter calling him “toxic.” Others have said that they are no longer watching the Bachelor franchise shows.
And fans didn’t keep their criticism to Reddit. A Change.org petition demanded Harrison be removed from the franchise:
On February 9, 2021 in an interview with Rachel Lindsay (the first Black Bachelorette) on Extra, Chris Harrison defended a white female contestant (Rachael Kirkkonnel) on the Bachelor for dressing up as a Plantation Mistress at an “Old South” party that took place on a plantation in Georgia. Chris made statements empathizing with Rachael K., claiming that in 2018, people did not know that was wrong. He repeatedly dismissed Rachel Lindsay’s counterpoints regarding what role she would have played at such a party as a Black woman. Chris went in to equate people labeling others as racist to be just as bad as those who commit racist acts. He also exclaimed that the “woke police” are asking people to live up to impossible standards. He repeatedly victimizes Rachael K. and calls her a poor girl who just didn’t know better. He also implies that she doesn’t owe anybody an apology because “who are you to judge?” This is one stark example of many of Chris He’s problematic and blatantly bigoted comments made as an interviewee.
We must demand accountability from those in power. We start by getting this racist, misogynistic host off of our television screens. All this casting for diversity is completely meaningless unless you are willing to take out the only consistent person on this show who will never take accountability for his actions. Remove Chris Harrison, or we boycott the Bachelor for good.
Neither Lindsay nor Harrison has elaborated on their interview.