The Bachelor's Rachael Kirkconnell has apologized.
Kirkconnell, who's a contestant on the current season of the long-running reality series, has faced accusations of racism since last month, when photos surfaced of her attending a fraternity formal with an antebellum plantation theme in 2018. Around the same time, a TikToker made an unverified accusation that Kirkconnell had bullied her in high school for dating a Black guy.
Kirkconnell is white, and she's competing for the heart of Matt James, the show's first ever Black bachelor.
"At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them. My age or when it happened doesn't excuse anything," she said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "There are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended."
The 24-year-old said she was "ashamed" of her lack of education and that she's learning. She also encouraged others to use this as a "teachable moment" to prevent someone else from making the same mistake.
She concluded by saying, "Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions." As for forgiveness, Kirkconnell said she hopes to earn it with her actions going forward.
Just one day earlier, Bachelor host Chris Harrison issued an apology for having defended Kirkconnell during an interview with Rachel Lindsay, who was the first Black star of The Bachelorette in 2017. When asked about the photos, Harrison initially said people should not be so quick to judge Kirkconnell.
"We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion," he said. "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, like, her parents, her parents' voting record. It's unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven't heard Rachael speak on this yet. 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."
When Lindsay said the controversial images were "not a good look," Harrison responded by asking if it was a good look in 2018. Lindsay's response was that it was "not a good look ever because she's celebrating the Old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"
Harrison argued, "50 million people did that in 2018."
On Wednesday, he said he was sorry for "wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism."
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