The former NFL linebacker, 30, appeared on Good Morning America on Wednesday, March 10, to talk about taking over the reins from longtime Bachelor host Chris Harrison. Last month, the 49-year-old TV personality came under fire for defending controversial contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racist actions and has taken a temporary break from the franchise.
“My initial reaction [to Rachael’s social media posts] was, ‘Yikes, that’s not a good look,’” Acho said on the ABC morning show. “My secondary reaction was, ‘Everybody pump the brakes’ because I believe her photos were racially insensitive and racially ignorant. Racial insensitivity and racial ignorance can play itself out as racism, but it doesn’t necessary classify someone as racist.”
Looking ahead to After the Final Rose, the athlete teased that he has a “very, very, very simple” mission: “Allow my white brothers and sisters who have watched the show and fell in love with Matt’s story to understand that Matt’s love story and his journey of love is different than other journeys of love, particularly because of his complexion and his skin color.”
Acho confirmed on February 27 that he will be hosting the post-finale special following Harrison’s controversy.
“IT’S OFFICIAL: I’ve accepted the Rose and am honored to be hosting the @bachelorabc After the Final Rose this year,” the Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man author wrote at the time via Instagram. “It’s been a pivotal season, and this episode will hopefully be one of the most storied shows in TV history. Empathy is needed and change is coming. Share the news! I’ll see y’all then! 🌹❤️.”
Before Acho’s interview on Wednesday, the Texas native shared his gratitude to Good Morning America for airing a brief segment about his upcoming hosting gig.
“Y’all, I’ve never been more excited about an opportunity in my life! Bachelor Nation, please welcome me with open arms,” he wrote via Instagram on March 1 while sharing the brief clip. “Thanks @goodmorningamerica for introducing me to this new world of amazing fans! I look forward to serving you. ❤️🌹.”
Harrison drew criticism for his defense of Kirkconnell, 24, in a February 9 interview with Rachel Lindsay for Extra. The contestant from James’ season was accused of “liking” racist social media posts, mocking a classmate’s attraction to Black men, wearing a racially insensitive costume and attending an antebellum-themed formal while in college in 2018.
“I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago, that’s it,” he said in his interview with Lindsay. “My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time, they were 18 years old. Now, does that make it OK? I don’t know Rachel, you tell me. Where is this lens were holding up and was that lens available and were we all looking through it in 2018? I don’t know.”
As Lindsay pointed out that Kirkconnell’s actions are “not a good look,” Harrison asked, “Is it [not] a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? … I’m not defending Rachael, I just know that 50 million people did that in 2018.”
Acho said on Wednesday that there is “absolutely” no difference between racially insensitive behavior in 2018 and 2021, explaining on GMA, “There’s an awareness [now]. In 2018, 2017, 2016, as far back as I can go, celebrating or enacting — even if it’s just by attire — an antebellum plantation party or an antebellum plantation festivity is wrong.”
Before announcing his leave of absence on February 13, Harrison issued an apology after receiving backlash from Bachelor viewers and former franchise stars alike. “What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that, I am so deeply sorry,” the Texas native wrote in an Instagram statement on February 10.
Kirkconnell broke her silence with an apology the following day.
“I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist,” she shared via Instagram on February 11. “I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me.”
Kirkconnell is one of the final two women competing for James — the first Black Bachelor lead — on the show’s 25th season. The Bachelor finale and one-hour, pre-taped After the Final Rose special will air on ABC Monday, March 15, at 8 p.m. ET.