‘The Bachelor’: Mike Johnson Calls Matt James Out for Staying Silent on Rachael Kirkconnell Controversy

 The Bachelor is no stranger to a controversy or two, especially when it comes to race. But this season, the drama seems to be taking down some of the franchise’s heavy hitters. The trouble started when photos of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell at an antebellum party surfaced. As Matt James is the first Black bachelor, it seemed contradictory that Kirkconnell would profess her love for him with such racist acts lingering in her past. Now, former Bachelorette contestant Mike Johnson is calling on James to speak out.

Chris Harrison and Mike Johnson sit onstage at the Men Tell All special of Hannah Brown's season of 'The Bachelorette'
Chris Harrison and Mike Johnson | John Fleenor/ABC via Getty Images

Rachael Kirkconnell’s apology

The photos of Kirkconnell were taken in 2018 at a college party. For weeks after the photos were released, Kirkconnell remained silent. Host Chris Harrison tried to speak on her behalf but ended up making things worse and having to take a hiatus from the franchise. Last week, Kirkconnell finally broke her silence.

“While there have been rumors circulating, there have also been truths that have come to light that I need to address. I hear you, and I’m here to say I was wrong,” she wrote on Instagram. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”

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She continued, saying that she hoped to earn the forgiveness of fans in the future.

“Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions,” she continued. “I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don’t think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions.”

What does Mike Johnson think?

After competing on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette, Johnson quickly became a fan favorite and many fans called for him to be the first Black bachelor. After Harrison’s ill-fated interview where he defended Kirkconnell’s attendance at the antebellum party, the women of color on James’ season released a statement condemning Harrison’s defense of racism.

As someone who has been a part of Bachelor Nation for a while, Johnson knows how hard speaking out probably was for the women.

“I have to commend the ladies that are currently on this show still who spoke out…” he said in an interview with Extra. “But for them to do that shows that it’s more important than anything else. And then they did it in such a way that you’re not going to get mad at everybody, you know, and so I was really like, ‘Good move, ladies, good move, ladies.’ I was really, really happy for them.”

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Mike Johnson wants to hear from Matt James

Now, Kirkconnell has addressed the incident, the women of color on James’ season have addressed it, and even Harrison has commented. But James himself has been pretty silent. When asked if he believed James should speak on the controversy, Johnson was clear in his answer.

“Yes, period,” he said. The reason is because, again… when you have that platform, people listen to you… I think that as you’re the lead of this show, people adore you and love you. And so therefore, especially during our historic season, in my assumption you, quite honestly, have to speak up for those that are voiceless.”