Sharing her side. Host Emmanuel Acho put Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell in the hot seat during the Monday, March 15, episode of After the Final Rose, addressing her past racially charged Instagram photos.
While Matt James‘ historic season was airing, photos of the graphic designer at an “Old South” antebellum-themed party in 2018 resurfaced. Additionally, screenshots were circulated on social media of her “liking” photos of friends posing in front of Confederate flags.
After showing the photos on the finale special, Echo, 30, asked Kirkconnell, 24, what she saw.
“I see someone who was living in ignorance without even thinking about who it would be hurting. I never once asked myself at any point, like, ‘What’s the tradition behind this? What does this represent? Why do we wear those dresses?’” she explained. “I’m not gonna sit here and say I didn’t know any better, because I could have easily asked myself those questions. I never took the time to make that connection, because if I would have taken the time, I easily could’ve understood what was wrong with it. … There is no excuse.”
Acho also asked her why she waited so long to apologize. “I wanted myself to really understand exactly why people were so hurt by this because I want to do better,” she replied.
During the March 15 finale, James, 29, chose Kirkconnell. However, during After the Final Rose, he revealed they split following the controversy.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I have to take a step back and allow her to put in the work,” the Bachelor said. “We are not [together]. It was as tough as you can imagine. It’s heartbreaking. If you don’t understand that something like that was problematic in 2018, there’s a lot of me that you won’t understand.”
When Acho asked what he would say to those accusing him of breaking up with her over something that happened a long time ago, the North Carolina native replied, “You know what was a long time ago? Plantations.”
Kirkconnell said she was “blindsided” by James’ call to end the relationship. “I thought about how strong I thought our relationship was, so for him to end things, he must have been very, very hurt by everything,” she said. “It was hard because I lost the love of my life and in the process of doing that, I hurt him. … I love him so much and I always will. I do feel like I finally do know what real love feels like.”
“It’s first on Rachael. I don’t think it is incumbent upon The Bachelor franchise to speak out on everything that everyone wants to hear about on social media. We’re not in the business of dealing with every problem that you have,” the producer, 49, said at the time. “I don’t think the show needs to speak before Rachael does, that’s not fair.”
He added that he was “not defending Rachael” but that “50 million people” went to parties like that in 2018. “My guess? These girls got dressed and went to a party and had a great time. They were 18 years old. Does that make it OK?” the host asked at the time. “I don’t know, Rachel, you tell me. … But where is this lens we’re holding up and was that lens available and were we all looking through it in 2018?”
“I’m here to say I was wrong. 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 does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist,” Kirkconnell wrote in a statement via Instagram on February 11. “I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me.”
Weeks later, she spoke out again, telling her Instagram followers not to defend her in a seven-and-a-half-minute video.