This story contains potential spoilers for the Season 25 finale of The Bachelor.
Matt James’ season of The Bachelor was supposed to be a breakthrough, with Matt starring as the first Black Bachelor in the reality TV franchise. Instead, the relationship between frontrunner contestant Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt has torn Bachelor Nation apart.
Social media reports about Rachael’s alleged bullying in high school — plus her controversial college photos of herself attending an antebellum-themed party in 2018, and the fact that she liked two photos featuring the Confederate flag — have resulted in Chris Harrison stepping back from the franchise for a while. The iconic host, who faced backlash after publicly defending Rachael’s past actions, will not host the upcoming season of The Bachelorette. While Rachael has since apologized on Instagram, saying she didn’t realize how “racist [her] actions” were at the time, the controversy has continued to simmer.
With Matt’s headline-making season of The Bachelor coming to an end, the finale will air on Monday, March 15, 2021, with a three-hour episode. But even without Rachael’s scandal, we have to wonder if she and Matt may have been doomed from the start? Keep scrolling to learn more about Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James’ reality TV romance.
Rachael's parents chimed in on her post-Bachelor situation with Matt
Rachael Kirkconnell’s parents, Darrell and Kim Kirkconnell, perhaps inadvertently did little to calm the controversy surrounding their daughter. To start, social media users found some info about the Kirkconnells in February 2021, including Rachael’s parents’ “public voting records,” with Bustle reporting, “Unconfirmed screenshots that were shared online suggested Rachael’s parents supported Donald Trump, who’s long been accused of racism himself, and donated to a Republican Party fundraising platform that aided the former president’s failed 2020 campaign.”
Rachael’s mom later defend her daughter’s past racist actions amid the ongoing backlash on her later-deleted Instagram account, per Us Weekly. But when she talked to the media about the controversy, it may have exacerbated the already tense situation — not unlike Prince William’s recent racist denial on behalf of the royal family. According to The Sun, Kim said in part, “No one should have to go through what she has been through. We have seen the devastation and heartbreak this has caused for Rachael.”
As for Rachael’s situation with Matt James, the Kirkconnells didn’t seem too thrilled with the relationship during The Bachelor‘s hometown visits. Of course, their lack of enthusiasm stemmed more from their daughter potentially marrying a man she’d known for two weeks. Per Us Weekly, Darrell told Matt that moving that quickly was “unrealistic.” Meanwhile, Kim told The Sun, “If he chooses Rachael, and then leaves her, then it was not meant to be, and there is someone else out there for her.”
Matt addressed Rachael's scandal on Instagram
Part of what makes Matt James’ season of The Bachelor so different from others is that much of Rachael Kirkconnell’s drama happened after the filming was over — meaning that Matt was finding out details about Rachael as the rest of us were. In an Instagram statement shared on Feb. 22, 2021, Matt told Bachelor Nation that the previous few weeks were the “some of the most challenging of [his] life.”
Matt’s post addressed “the troubling information that has come to light,” specifically pointing to “the incredibly disappointing photos of Rachael Kirkconnell and the interview between Rachel Lindsay and Chris Harrison.” Referring to “the racist history of the Antebellum South” as “a painful history that every American should understand intimately,” Matt called watching these controversies play out “devastating and heartbreaking.” He added, “As Black people and allies immediately knew and understood, it was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years.”
While it’s difficult to say whether Matt and Rachael would have worked out in the long-term if her bullying allegations and past photos never came to light, it does seem as though The Bachelor franchise’s speed-dating pace did little to prepare the short-lived couple for the complexities of an interracial relationship. Shortly after Matt released his statement, Reality Steve tweeted, “(SPOILER): Not that Matt’s statement wasn’t pretty clear itself, but I can confirm that Matt and Rachael have broken up.”
The Bachelor's Rachael and Matt will reportedly face each other again on 'After the Final Rose'
Amid the reports that Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell had broken up were spoilers for the upcoming Season 25 finale of The Bachelor — namely, claims that Rachael wins Matt’s final rose, but that the duo apparently walk away without a proposal (via Reality Steve). Fans will have to tune in on March 15, 2021, to find out whether or not Matt popped the question to either finalist, Rachael or Michelle Young. However, Us Weekly reports that the trio are set to “come face to face” with one another during a sit down with Chris Harrison’s fill-in host, Emmanuel Acho.
NFL alum Acho opened up to Good Morning America about Rachael’s racism accusations and the subsequent backlash against Harrison, calling it “the most uncomfortable conversation in the history of the Bachelor franchise because it’s not just about relationships, but now it’s about race.”
Speaking with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, the Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man author said of Rachael and Matt’s relationship, “Rachael is currently dealing with all of this racially tense controversy, so that would kind of obviously skew my decision as a Black man if I already knew about said controversy.” Acho added, “But what I think is so interesting is watching both of the love connections play out. I think Matt and Rachael have an incredible connection, just affection. Matt admitted that he was falling for Rachael first.”
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