New Bachelorette star Katie Thurston has apologised after facing backlash from LGBT+ fans over an Instagram post.
Thurston was criticised for queerbaiting after sharing a photo of her friend, Bachelor contestant Casandra Suarez, kissing her on the neck.
The two were sitting in front of “Girls, girls, girls” sign, and the now-deleted post was captioned: “Whatever floats your boat”. Suarez reportedly commented: “So did Katie actually end up with me, yes or no?”
Many thought Thurston, who appeared on the 25th season of The Bachelor, might have been dropping hints about her sexuality, with some hopeful that the reality show might be featuring queer Bachelorette.
However, she clarified the post was not a “statement about my sexuality” and was “simply a friendship post”.
She continued: “I’ve never spoken publicly about my sexuality nor am I doing so with this picture. Nothing but love for everyone.”
Amid criticism, Thurston deleted the post and issued an apology after realising “how many people from the LGBTQ+ [community] I hurt”.
She said she “read the comments” and understood why “the post was “offensive”.
“I will continue to learn from my mistakes,” Thurston wrote. “I want to always be an ally and today I’m sorry I let you down.”
Thurston’s comments come shortly after former Bachelor star Colton Underwood came out as gay, becoming the first lead in the franchise’s history to do so.
Underwood also recently revealed that he was being threatened after someone saw him at a spa known for catering to gay clientele.
The unidentified person threatened to “out” the former NFL player and claimed to have nude pictures of him.
The incident led to Underwood coming out in an interview with Good Morning America – and to him winning his own Netflix reality show with “gay guide” Gus Kenworthy.
The Bachelorette season 17, starting Katie Thurston, is set to start on 7 June.