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Matt James' Statement Reveals He's "Re-Evaluated" His Final Decision

- The Bachelor -
Matt James' Statement Reveals He's "Re-Evaluated" His Final Decision

It's been weeks since the internet learned that Rachael Kirkconnell, a finalist on The Bachelor, had both attended an "Old South"-inspired party in 2018, and had been accused of racially motivated bullying. And, in the time since — which saw Chris Harrison step down after an embarrassingly tone-deaf interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, and Kirkconnell release an apology of her own — Bachelor Matt James has been notably quiet. But, just an hour before the episode's hometown interview, James released a statement, and his words were accompanied with some breaking news of its own.

Warning: Major spoilers ahead.

In his statement, James wrote about being "heartbroken" over the revelations, and admitted that The Bachelor has "fallen short" surrounding the franchise's treatment of race. But he also wrote that the news forced him to "re-evaluate and process" his time on the series — words that seem to indicate some sense of regret attached to the show.

His words are not surprising, if you consult Emma Gray and Clare Fallon's Huffington Post update, which reports that James ultimately gave Kirkconnell her final rose — and has dropped her like a skydiver once news of her past came out.

Gray and Fallon, hosts of the popular Here To Make Friends podcast, are trustworthy sources — and it doesn't hurt their report has also been backed up by Reality Steve, who teased Kirkconnell's victory earlier this season. But such a move aligns with James' words, since Gray and Fallon's report points to Kirkconnell's past being the reason for the breakup.

James has been criticized for not coming out with a statement sooner, particularly after the women of the season spoke out — but a source close to The Bachelor told HuffPost that an unfair burden has been placed on him to speak out, given he's The Bachelor's first black male lead. As the source told HuffPost:

As the season has progressed, it’s become clear that Matt’s presence on the show was exemplary of what so many POC face daily. He and the Black women had to take on the extra responsibility of helping The Bachelor address issues of diversity and were often exploited. The Bachelor executives have failed to realize that casting a diverse set of contestants is not the same thing as creating equitable conditions and opportunities. If they want to change, that means change behind, and in front of the camera.

The entirety of James' statement is below:

The reality is that I'm learning about these situations in real time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly. Chris's failure to receive and understand the emotional labor that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on by graciously and patiently explaining the racist of the Antebellum South, a painful that every American should understand immediately, was troubling and painful to watch. 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.
This moment has sparked critical conversations and reporting, raised important questions, and resulted in inspiring displays of solidarity from The Bachelor nation. It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all of the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home.
I will continue to process this experience, and you will hear more from me in the end. My greatest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better.

All of this points to a necessary conversation during the After The Final Rose — but a conversation that will be no less awkward, especially given Chris Harrison's absence. (Though we still don't know who will fill in Harrison's shoes, popular theories surround Lindsay or former contestant Mike Johnson.)

This season's Bachelor might not live up to its fantasy, but it's represents a reality that's worth discussing at this season's end, and in seasons to come.

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