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“The Bachelor” Matt James opens up about the controversy surrounding his season: “Devastating and heartbreaking”

“The Bachelor” star Matt James spoke on Monday about the controversy surrounding his season of the longtime dating show. James, the franchise’s first black bachelor in nearly 20 years, said in a statement it had been “devastating and heartbreaking” to learn of the “insanely disappointing” photos of candidate Rachael Kirkconnell and subsequent comments from the host Chris Harrison.

In his statement, posted on Instagram, James said the past few weeks have been some of the most difficult of his life and that, like the public, he learns in real time about situations involving Kirkconnell and Harrison. While there are still several episodes to air in the season, he said, “It is important that I take the time to deal with the disturbing information that has come to light since filming was completed.”

Harrison, who has hosted the show since 2002, announced earlier this month that he was stepping away from the show for a “period of time.” His announcement came after a controversial interview on “Extra” with the first black bachelor, Rachel Lindsay, in which he defended current candidate Rachael Kirkconnell, who has been accused of racist acts.

Harrison has received criticism from fans after saying, in part, “we all need a little bit of grace” for Kirkconnell, who was criticized after photos of her at a party on the pre-war theme in 2018 resurfaced this month. Kirkconnell and Harrison both apologized.

Lindsay, who conducted the interview with Harrison, announced last week that she would not be renewing her contract with the show following Harrison’s comments.

In his statement, James said: “Chris’ failure to receive and understand the emotional work my friend Rachel Lindsay was undertaking in gracefully and patiently explaining the racist story of Antebellum South, a painful story that every American should understand. intimately, was disturbing and painful to watch. ”

James said this reflected a “much larger problem that The Bachelor franchise has failed to adequately address for years.”

CBS News has contacted Harrison, Kirkconnell and ABC, which broadcasts “The Bachelor,” for comment and is awaiting a response.

Since the start of the series, there have been three black actors: Lindsay, James, and Tayshia Adams, who have all performed on the series for the past four years.

Lindsay spoke about the show lack of diversity, and last year wrote a blog post about his continued involvement with the franchise. She said if changes weren’t made “inside and outside the franchise,” she would walk away from it. She listed several suggested changes, including the casting of leads “who are genuinely interested in dating outside of their race”, to diversify producers and not “to create problematic storylines for people of color.”

Following his blog post, as well as an online petition created by fans, the series chose James as their first black male lead.

In his statement on Monday, James reflected on his role as the first black bachelor. “This moment sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions and sparked inspiring displays of solidarity from the Bachelor Nation,” James said. “It also prompted me to re-evaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor means, not just to me, but to all of the contestants of color, especially the black contestants from this season and past seasons, and to you. , home viewers. “

James said he will continue to process the experience and fans will hear more about it in the end. “My biggest prayer is that this be an inflection point that results in real institutional change for the better,” he said.

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