The Bachelor Producers Admit to ‘Big Blind Spot’ on Racial Matters: ‘We Have to Do Better’

The Bachelor has taken a lot of heat for its mishandling of racial issues, and the show’s producers admit they still have a lot of work to do.

In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bachelor executive producers Claire Freeland and Bennett Graebner confront the ABC dating franchise’s problematic past when it comes to race, including a whirlwind of controversy that surrounded the first Black Bachelor, Matt James, in 2021 that led to the exit of longtime host Chris Harrison. Freeland and Graebner were both silent when pressed on these racial issues by NPR journalist Eric Deggans in February, but now they’re ready to address them.

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“It’s hard to say out loud, that people of color didn’t see themselves represented, that they did not see The Bachelor franchise as a safe place,” Graebner now says. “We didn’t have a Black lead in this franchise for 15 years, and that’s inexcusable.”

Graebner is especially apologetic when looking back at James’ season: “I’m going to be really frank — we let Matt down. That season went wrong on so many levels. We did not protect him as we should have. The finale of that season was the darkest day I’ve had on this franchise.” (James’ season ended with him selecting Rachael Kirkconnell to receive his final rose, but the finale was followed by a somber and awkward interview with Emmanuel Acho where they reckoned with photos that had surfaced online of Kirkconnell at an antebellum-themed party.)

The producers also admit to fumbling their response to Bachelor contestant Rachel Nance revealing the racist hate messages she received from fans last season. “A big blind spot was not naming what it was: racism,” Freeland says. “That was another missed opportunity for us… We have to do better.”

The Bachelor franchise returns to ABC next month with a new season of The Bachelorette, with new star Jenn Tran becoming the first Asian American lead in franchise history. “We have a long way to go. But we’re committed to getting there,” Graebner says. “If you don’t want to see a Black love story, an Asian American love story, an interracial love story, then maybe Bachelor Nation isn’t for you.”

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