Following a tense Tuesday interview with the first Black The Bachelorette star, Rachel Lindsay, on Extra in which Harrison tried to defend Kirkconnell and dismiss the allegations that have been attached to her for about six weeks, Harrison has issued an apology.
Harrison took to Instagram on Wednesday and wrote, "To my Bachelor Nation family -- I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology. 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," Harrison continued.
"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."
Harrison also apologized to his "friend" Lindsay "for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of."
He proceeded to "humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable."
The Kirkconnell controversy began shortly afterThe Bachelor premiered in early January when a TikTok user named Maddy Bierster accused Kirkconnell of bullying her in high school for dating Black men.
Kirkconnell was subsequently additionally accused by other The Bachelor fans of cultural appropriation and liking photos with offensive and racist content on Instagram, such as a friend standing in front of a house displaying the Confederate flag.
And earlier this month, photos emerged of Kirkconnell with her sorority sisters attending an antebellum plantation-themed "Old South" fraternity formal at Georgia College & State University back in 2018.
FOLLOW REALITY TV WORLD ON THE ALL-NEW GOOGLE NEWS!
Reality TV World is now available on the all-new Google News app and website. Click here to visit our Google News page, and then click FOLLOW to add us as a news source!
Reality Steve spoiler blogger Steve Carbone reposted two photos from the party February 5 on Twitter and tweeted how this was "unacceptable" and "wildly ignorant" of Kirkconnell to do.
Lindsay asked Harrison to address the social-media controversy during his Tuesday interview withExtra, and Harrison took a strong stance in Kirkconnell's defense and ultimately dismissed the heavy backlash against Matt's Season 25 frontrunner.
"I haven't talked to Rachael about it. This is where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion," Harrison began.
"Because I have seen some stuff online -- this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl's life apart and diving into her parents and her parents' voting record. It's unbelievably alarming to watch this."
Harrison continued in his interview, "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?"
In regards to the Old South party Kirkconnell apparently attended, Harrison said, "I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that's it. Like, boom."
"'Okay, this girl is in this book now and she's now in this group.' And I'm like, 'Really?'"
In response to Harrison, Lindsay countered, "The picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party. That's not a good look. It's not a good look."
"Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018 or, is it not a good look in 2021?" Harrison argued. "Because there's a big difference."
"It's not a good look EVER," Lindsay insisted. "She is celebrating the Old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"
Harrison noted that he didn't disagree with Lindsay on that, but he went on to explain his perspective.
"You're 100 percent 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. 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."
Harrison told Lindsay that people aren't "looking under the same lens" in 2021 as they were several years ago.
"My guess? 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 okay? I don't know Rachel, you tell me," he explained, adding, "Were we all looking through [that lens] in 2018?"
Lindsay called that "the problem."
"You're right -- we weren't looking through those lenses and we should have been, and just because it was a popular party doesn't necessarily make it right," Lindsay noted.
Harrison said Kirkconnell probably hasn't spoken on the controversy yet because "you can't please everybody," and he recalled seeing something "that said this person is a registered Republican, therefore they are 'this.' And I'm like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa!'"
Lindsay acknowledged "that's ridiculous" and then Harrison continued, "We have to be so careful when we start labeling people."
"The woke police it out there, and this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions, I don't know how you are equipped when you've never done this before to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this. And my guess is, this woman needs a little time," Harrison suggested.
"We don't give people time to have some perspective and try to drink this in for a second and see how it affects their lives and then speak on it. She will speak, my guess, and when she does, I'm going to hear her out."
Lindsay said Kirkconnell allegations surfaced six weeks ago when Matt's The Bachelor season premiered and she hasn't said a word yet.
"Reasonable people aren't on social media, and that's what you're dealing with," Harrison said.
Lindsay pointed out that Kirkconnell dating a Black man adds complexity to the situation.
"Where is the narrative of her falling in love with Matt? Where is that in this social conversation we're having?... When you are trying to react to something on social media, there is no grace. There is no understanding... It does not matter what Rachael says or does," Harrison shared.
When asked whether The Bachelor franchise will speak on the issues, Harrison admitted that burden belongs to Kirkconnell first.
"We're not in the business of dealing with every problem that you have. That's not how this works. We don't have the time of day to handle everything that people come up with on social media," Harrison said.
He added, "Rachael will have her time to speak... and I will push her. I will make it uncomfortable. I will try to hold her feet to the fire as much as I can, and then you guys will be the judge and the jury and figure out where everything falls after that."
A fan later tweeted about the interview and wrote, "@TheRachLindsay is so generous and giving to this franchise. We do not deserve her."
The former attorney and Season 13 The Bachelorette star replied, "My days are numbered."
The Bachelor franchise has been under scrutiny for its lack of diversity for years, with Lindsay often speaking out publicly about the issue and holding the show and its production accountable.
Matt was named the first Black The Bachelor star in 25 seasons of the series in June 2020 after Lindsay publicly expressed her dissatisfaction about The Bachelor franchise's lack of diversity and her status as its only Black lead in 18 years of broadcast in a blog post earlier that month.
However, ABC subsequently insisted the network already picked Matt as The Bachelor's Season 25 star before Lindsay expressed outrage over the franchise's lack of diversity.
"It wasn't a response to that," ABC reality chief Robert Mills said. "We could have made this announcement earlier or later."