Rachel Lindsay speaks out about Chris Harrison's defense of racism, 'racist issues' plaguing the franchise

Rachel Lindsay is calling attention to previous instances of racism within The Bachelor franchise, claiming that longtime host Chris Harrison knew how to deal with the current controversy surrounding Rachael Kirkconnell, but intentionally chose to defend the contestant's racist actions.

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"We had racist issues on the show in 2017. There was a racist contestant [cast] for my season," Lindsay told Don Lemon on CNN Tonight Monday evening. "In 2018, the lead picked someone who was liking racist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic things on social media. So we've dealt with this within the franchise. So my initial reaction was, I was shocked. I thought maybe [Harrison] misspoke. But when he continued down this path, I thought, Oh, no. This is really what he wants to say. And I felt I needed to let him say it."

Lindsay — who appeared as the franchise's first Black bachelorette in 2017 — was referring to her Extra TV interview with Harrison in which the two discussed resurfaced images of Kirkconnell —a contestant currently competing for the heart of the franchise's first Black bachelor Matt James — showing the 24-year-old attending a party with an antebellum plantation theme.

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On Wednesday, Harrison told Lindsay that people need to show Kirkconnell "a little grace." He continued, "I’m not defending Rachael. I just know, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018... that was a type of party that a lot of people went to."

Harrison later issued an apology, acknowledging that he spoke "in a manner that perpetuates racism." On Saturday, he announced that he will be temporarily "stepping aside" from the franchise.

"He knew how to defend himself and what he represents," Lindsay said of her interview with Harrison. "It was baffling to me that he was preaching grace and space and compassion, but you're talking to someone and you're not giving them that same thing or the community that she represents or the very people who are offended by the actions of the girl that you're defending. It really was baffling in the moment but I thought, if you're going to say this, then folks need to hear it."

Lindsay had the interview air unedited for viewers to hear Harrison's words as he intended.

"This was a teachable moment for people," she told Lemon. "You think racism just has to be explicit. This was an example of implicit racism. There was some unconscious bias that Chris Harrison had that [was] coming out in that interview."

She went on to say that Harrison himself seemed to have recognized what he communicated through his defense of Kirkconnell's actions before issuing his first apology later that day.

"You don't get to say whatever you want and then blame people for holding you accountable for that. That's just not how it works. And I felt like that was what was happening in that moment," Lindsay explained. "I think Chris is realizing that, which again, we're seeing this in not one but now two apologies and with him acting by stepping aside. So we'll see where we go from here. We'll see what's learned."

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