However, Bachelor Nation has come together to show their support for the first Black male lead after he addressed Harrison's bombshell interview with Extra co-host Rachel Lindsay, where he defended Kirkconnell following the resurfacing of what many deemed to be racially charged posts.
“The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life,” James, 29, shared in an Instagram statement on Monday, February 22. “It is important that I take the time to address the troubling information that has come to light since we wrapped filming, including the incredibly disappointing photos of Rachael Kirkconnell and the interview between Rachel Lindsay and Chris Harrison."
James went on to explain that he's “learning about these situations in real time,” referring to Harrison defending Kirkconnell after alleged photos surfaced of her at an Old South party in 2018. "It has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly."
"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," he added before admitting that the whole controversy has "pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home."
Following James' emotional statement, Bachelor favorites showered the handsome hunk with support and praise. "Yes Matt Yes," former Bachelorette Lindsay commented. Season 11 Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe responded with three red heart emojis and three clapping hand emojis, as season 10 Bachelorette Andi Dorfman added: "Always have and always will be proud of the kind, strong, compassionate stand up of a man you are."
Season 21 contestant Taylor Nolan also commented with five clapping hand emojis.
Days after the shocking Extra interview with Lindsay — the first Black lead in Bachelor history — Harrison announced he would temporarily step down as host and will not appear on "After The Final Rose" special. Kirkconnell also apologized, admitting: "I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
And while Bachelor Nation is coming together, The Bachelor appears to be falling apart behind the scenes. The franchise is currently hostless, the "After The Final Rose" special is up in the air and the question of who will be the next Bachelorette remains unanswered. Reality Steve previously reported that season 25 fan favorite Katie Thurston was lined up for the position; however, the plan has reportedly changed following the recent racist drama.
“Katie was originally going to be the Bachelorette, and once the sh*t hit the fan with the franchise the last couple weeks, the course of action changed, and they are now in discussions on who to go with," Reality Steve shared in a spoiler post. "All I’ve heard is it won’t be Katie now.”
He added that filming for the newest Bachelorette season, which will take place in the U.S., "has been delayed about a week, so probably third week in March is when it will begin."
The "After The Final Rose" special is reportedly set to be filmed this weekend in L.A., but Reality Steve shared that he doesn't know who will be the host or what the special will cover, in regards to the recent drama.