James spoke to “GMA” host Michael Strahan about the ongoing racial controversy surrounding his season of “The Bachelor,” franchise host Chris Harrison and season winner Rachael Kirkconnell
“It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt the weight of everything that I was carrying throughout the season and with what we were dealing with as a country and having to explain that and why it was problematic to me and our relationship, which was extremely difficult,” James said.
On the Monday night finale, James gave his final rose to Kirkconnell — the controversial contestant who became embroiled in a racist scandal during the season of “The Bachelor” when past photos of her at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity party surfaced on social media.
The controversy escalated when longtime host Chris Harrison defended Kirkconnell in a defensive interview with former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay, which was widely criticized, resulting in Harrison stepping aside for the upcoming 17th season of “The Bachelorette,” which will star Katie Thurston.
“The frustrating part about the position I’m in is having to explain, not only to Rachael but to the rest of America, why things like that are problematic,” James said. “We don’t have that chance to have that ignorance — thinking about Breonna Taylor, thinking about Tamir Rice — they didn’t have that opportunity, they had ignorance.”
“I know that Rachael’s a good person and everything that she outlined in her apology and statement, I’m looking forward to seeing her do, because I know she’s capable of it,” he added.
James’ season was meant to be historic, as he became the first-ever Black lead of “The Bachelor” in its 25 years, also featuring the most diverse cast on contestants the franchise has ever had. However, the season was upended by controversy, overshadowing James’ significant role, while illuminating the franchise’s issues with race and inclusion. With Harrison sitting out next season of “The Bachelorette,” James said he was excited to see former contestants Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe co-host.
“I’m excited. It’s a fresh start, and we need more women hosting. It was the right move,” James said.
There’s no word on Harrison’s permanent future with the franchise, but when he stopped by “Good Morning America” for a previous interview with Strahan, he said he plans to return to the show, prompting Strahan to call Harrison’s apology a “surface response.”