Bachelor franchise stars are speaking out in support of Rachel Lindsay after she publicly called out longtime host Chris Harrison.
Lindsay, who became the franchise's first Black lead on The Bachelorette in 2017, called Harrison into question on Friday for his remarks about a current contestant on Matt James' season, Rachael Kirkconnell, who recently came under fire for past racist behavior.
Harrison, 49, has since apologized for "wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism," but during the latest episode of the Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay podcast, Lindsay, 35, said she's having a "hard time" accepting the apology, adding that she plans on leaving the franchise once her contract is up.
Following her statements, James, Tayshia Adams, Dale Moss and more showed their solidarity on social media.
"I am beyond [grateful] to have Rachel as a mentor during this season. Your advocacy of BIPOC people in this franchise is invaluable, I stand with you and the rest of the women advocating for change and accountability," James — the first Black Bachelor — wrote on his Instagram Story Friday.
Adams, who was the most recent Bachelorette, said on her Instagram Story that she was "really hurt" by Harrison's remarks and condemned Kirkconnell's "blatant forms of racist acts." (Kirkconnell was called out for old social media posts which saw her dressed in Native American attire as a costume and attending an antebellum plantation-themed ball. She has since apologized.)
Harrison's commentary on the matter was made during a 14-minute, unedited interview with Lindsay on Extra this week, where he said in part that we should all "have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion" in the wake of the resurfaced photos.
"I am really hurt and disappointed and confused at the ignorance when it comes to race," said Adams, 30. "The things that have come to light within the Bachelor franchise this past week have just been eye-opening."
"The photo that [Kirkconnell] was in is racist; the party she attended, racist. Her actions have been racist," she continued. "When there are blatant forms of racist acts you cannot be defensive of it. It speaks volumes, and I just have to say I am really hurt by this response."
Adams further discussed the situation on a special episode of her Click Bait podcast with co-hosts Joe Amabile and Natasha Parker.
"This hit me on a different level, I think also just because I am the current Bachelorette, if you will. The first biracial lead," she said. "I definitely will say, watching that interview, my eyes were wide open. My jaw was kind of to the floor, just because it was an ongoing conversation filled with so much defense and what I feel is ignorance. To be clear, I think all everybody was looking for is a little bit of accountability in the sense of just saying the images that have come out, they're wrong. Bottom line is they're wrong."
Adams commended Lindsay for her "composure" during the interview, saying, "She had to conduct herself in that way or else the message would be lost if she were to show her anger."
Parker grew emotional as she reflected on Harrison's commentary, saying, "How can we defend a franchise when the head of the franchise is saying these things?"
"We're a part of this franchise and people can't help but feel like Matt James — and even you, Tayshia, to a certain extent — was a Band-Aid once they got so much heat about not having a Black Bachelor and only having one Black Bachelorette," Parker continued. "And still, it's like racism is a cancer that keeps plaguing this franchise. And I don't understand why."
A group of contestants from the most recent season of The Bachelorette, which began with Clare Crawley before Adams replaced her, issued a statement regarding the controversy, saying the conversation on race within the franchise "has been long overdue."
"We stand united in denouncing racist behavior and any defense thereof," they said. "We also stand united with the women of season 25 of The Bachelor, who have denounced the same; moreover, we stand united with Rachel Lindsay, who has led the way."
Ivan Hall, Joe Park, Demar Jackson, Riley Christian, Kenny Braasch, Jordan Chapman, Jay Smith, Ed Waisbrot, Brendan Morais, Blake Moynes and Bennett Andrew Jordan all reposted the statement, as well as Moss, who shared a lengthy caption alongside his post detailing the racism he and his family members have faced.
"Change doesn't happen unless we take a stand, speak out and educate others against things that perpetuate racism," said Moss, 32.
Moss' ex, Crawley, also spoke out on her Instagram Story to express her "extreme disappointment with Chris and Rachel's interview."
"I have been really understanding the magnitude of how racist behavior, and racism impacts out society and perpetuates ignorance and oppression. I have been listening to conversations and discussions as an ally and will always continue to learn, denounce, and support BIPOC in the fight against racism," wrote Crawley, 39. "To my friend Rachel: you are a force of strength, empowerment, and composure as you have continually shown up as a voice to create change not only within this franchise, but far beyond. You are not alone."
And on Thursday, the 25 BIPOC contestants from James' season issued a statement via Instagram addressing the controversy, denouncing "any defense of racism" and backing Lindsay.
"Rachel Lindsay continues to advocate with 'grace' for individuals who identify as BIPOC within this franchise," they wrote. "Just because she is speaking the loudest, doesn't mean she is alone. We stand with her, we hear her, and we advocate for change alongside her."
In a statement to PEOPLE, former Bachelorette DeAnna Pappas Stagliano applauded Lindsay for her "fearlessness to put things out and bring them to light," adding, "I love her authenticity and her passion. And that she isn't scared to call out The Bachelor franchise."
Katie Thurston, who went home during last week's episode of The Bachelor, has also condemned Kirkconnell's actions as "unacceptable."
"I know she has made a statement, but it's not my place to accept that apology," she said during Friday's episode of the Tamron Hall Show. "I will say actions speak louder than words. And it's just a good reminder for me especially to continue to educate myself on how to be an ally."
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