At the time, the show’s 25th season was airing weekly installments ― the first season to feature a Black man, Matt James, as the titular bachelor.
Kirkconnell became a frontrunner until photos surfaced showing her attending an “Old South” ball in antebellum-style dress and a Native American costume, while it emerged that she had also liked photos featuring racist outfits on others. Kirkconnell apologized for her actions.
She was the ultimate winner of the season, but she and James broke up before the finale; they have since reunited.
In February, Harrison appeared on “Extra” and defended Kirkconnell in an interview with correspondent Rachel Lindsay, who was the first Black “Bachelorette.” Harrison repeatedly downplayed Kirkconnell’s attendance at the antebellum ball, blasting the “woke police.” He said the ball ― which took place in 2018 ― was “five years ago” and implied it should be judged by different standards than those used in 2021.
“Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018? Or is it not a good look in 2021?” Harrison said on “Extra.” “Because there’s a big difference.”
“It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay replied. “Because she’s celebrating the Old South. If I were at that party, what would I represent?”
“I don’t disagree with you. You’re 100% right in 2021. That was not the case in 2018,” Harrison said. “And again, I’m not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018.”
Harrison later apologized, but the backlash was swift, including from women of color on James’ season, who put out a joint statement condemning his words ― a rare move from contestants.
In March, ABC announced that Harrison would not be returning to host “The Bachelorette,” which kicked off the first episode of its 17th season Monday night.
According to Deadline, a lawyer for Harrison threatened to air the series’ dirty laundry unless the longtime host received ample financial compensation. There has been no official word on the terms of the separation agreement.
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