During one of the most controversial seasons in the show’s history, The Bachelor’s Matt James revealed that he and winner Rachael Kirkconnell are no longer together after photos surfaced of her racist past.
James was the first Black Bachelor in the show’s 19-year run, and said that he made the decision to split from Kirkconnell after the show, as he realized the “rumors” were true. Before the final rose ceremony aired, old social media posts of Kirkconnell with a Confederate flag, pro-Trump material and at a college ‘antebellum’ party surfaced on social media. The controversey led to host Chris Harrison announcing a temporary departure after he came to the defense of Kirkconnell in an interview. He was replaced by former NFL star and author Emmanuel Acho for the finale, and will be replaced by Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe for the next season of The Bachelorette.
As for James and Kirkconnell, James initially gave Kirkconnell his final rose but did not propose, saying that he wasn’t prepared to get engaged after talking with his mother. After the show, however, during The Bachelor: After the Final Rose with Acho, James said the pair split when he discovered the photographs were true.
“As someone who grew up in the South, it takes me to a place that I often try not to think about,” James said. “When she spoke out and publicly acknowledged that she would do better and she apologized, is when I was finally able to take a check on myself and see where I was at, and I wasn’t OK. It was in that moment and the conversation that I had that — Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.”
James added that he has to “take a step back” and allow Kirkconnell to “put in the work” that she said she needs to in her apology. During the show, James confronted Kirckconnell about her past.
“When I questioned our relationship, it was in the context of you not fully understanding my blackness and what it means to be a Black man in America,” Matt told her, per Yahoo. “It broke my heart, because this is the last conversation I thought we’d be having. I didn’t sign up to have this conversation.”
Kirkconnell wrote on Instagram after the show that she “completely” respected James’ decision. In the post, she called him the “love of my life.”