Rachel Lindsay, the first-ever Black star of “The Bachelorette,” is calling out the ABC franchise for staying silent as the ongoing racial controversy involving host Chris Harrison and “The Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell continues to spiral.
On Lindsay’s podcast “Higher Learning,” which she hosts with Van Lathan, she said the show shouldn’t begin filming “The Bachelorette” until the franchise figures out how to handle its ever-mounting problems.
“They’re about to go into production for ‘The Bachelorette,'” Lindsay, who starred as “The Bachelorette” in 2017, said on the podcast, which went up early Tuesday morning. “I think they should just stop until … they get the train back on the tracks. You’re going to go another season, but you still have all of these issues. How have you fixed them coming into a new season? You really haven’t. I think that they need to take a beat, figure things out, regroup and then bring the product back to us in a way that we can all enjoy it like we used to.”
Earlier this year, when the current season of “The Bachelor” began airing, Kirkconnell — who remains a frontrunner contestant on Matt James’ season, which wraps up in two weeks — came under fire as older photos of her resurfaced on social media. In the pictures, she is seen in attendance at an Old South plantation-themed fraternity party. She also liked photos that contain images of the Confederate flag.
Following the social media controversy, Lindsay, who is a correspondent on “Extra,” interviewed Harrison on the entertainment news show and asked him his thoughts about Kirkconnell. Harrison went to great lengths to defend Kirkconnell, calling out the “woke police” and suggesting that the racist behavior was not as bad in 2018 as it would be today in 2021. Lindsay objected to that argument.
Since the widely criticized interview aired, the scandal has escalated, with Harrison stepping aside from the series (he won’t be hosting the “After the Final Rose” episode this month), and numerous “Bachelor” alums calling out the franchise for its poor handling of race and diversity.
The Harrison controversy comes as “The Bachelor” is airing its first season with a Black lead, since the show debuted in 2002. The current season also features the most diverse pool of contestants in the franchise’s history.
Both Harrison and Kirkconnell issued their own apologies on their personal social media accounts — and on Tuesday, it was reported that Harrison will be interviewed by Michael Strahan on ABC’s “Good Morning America” this week. But ABC and Warner Bros., which produces “The Bachelor,” have not made any official comments regarding the controversy, though the executive producers of the franchise tweeted a statement yesterday, in support of Lindsay, who has been the target of hateful harassment, ever since her interview with Harrison.
Lindsay is now calling out the franchise for its silence.
“They need to come out and say something,” Lindsay said on the podcast.
“Right now, you’re letting your fans speak for you,” Lindsay said. “This is an audience you have curated for 15 years until you had the first lead of color, me. You have built this. These people feel like they had their world, and now people of color are trying to mess it up. You did this! So you need to speak out, and you need to say something — you need to undo it. And at the moment, they’re silent.”
ABC and Warner Bros. declined to comment.
The podcast was taped Monday, before the producers of “The Bachelor” franchise released the statement in support of Lindsay, condemning all racist online bullying. (Lindsay had deleted her Instagram account last week, in the wake of the harassment.)
Despite the producers’ statement, which was posted on their Twitter account, there has been no official statement released by the network or studio, at this point. And it’s unclear whether Harrison will continue hosting duties, after he steps aside from “After the Final Rose,” which is filming this week.
Typically, the new season of “The Bachelorette” films immediately after “The Bachelor” airs, so should Harrison be back to host that season, a decision will need to be made swiftly.
Lindsay’s co-host Lathan said it’s difficult to watch the show now because what’s happening off-screen is a distraction. “Now it seems like no one is having any fun,” he said. “Nobody’s having any fun. The whole globule of it seems toxic.” He suggested that Harrison should come on their podcast, saying, “At this point, ABC, Chris, you, everyone who is not going to be able to run from the fact that they’re involved in this, at some point people are going to have to come together and figure out how to move forward, get back to watching random people fuck each other on the television show.”
“Nobody is expecting it to be ‘Bachelor: Wakanda’ next season,” Lathan quipped, when discussing a path forward for the franchise.
In addition to her “Higher Learning” podcast, Lindsay also serves as co-host of “Bachelor Happy Hour,” the official podcast for Bachelor Nation, with fellow former “Bachelorette” Becca Kufrin.
This week, Lindsay — who is under contract with Warner Bros. to host “Bachelor Happy Hour” — was absent from the episode, which also went up early Tuesday morning. Kufrin addressed the absence, explaining that in light of Lindsay deleting her Instagram, “She has been taking on so much in the world of Bachelor Nation. And I want to extend my support and friendship and just give her a little break. She needs it, she needs some time away.”
After her interview with Harrison last month, Lindsay said she does not want to renew her contract with Warner Bros. (“I’m fucking tired. I’m exhausted. I have truly had enough,” she said on Feb. 12.)
A source familiar with the matter says that Lindsay is still working with the Bachelor Nation podcast.
Variety has reached out to Warner Bros. and a representative for Lindsay, regarding her contract with the studio.