“You wanna believe that you know your person better than anybody else knows your person, and while all this controversy’s swirling around — who Rachael [Kirkconnell] is and things that she might have attended and pictures that she ‘liked’ and people that she’s associated with,” Matt said. “Before Rachael addressed anything or Chris Harrison spoke on anything, I’m trying to be there for her, and I dismissed them as rumors because that’s what they were to me. You hear things that are heartbreaking and you just pray they’re not true. And then when you find out that they are, it just makes you question everything.”
After Matt confirmed he and Rachael are no longer together, she shared her response to their split. “When he first called me to end things, my initial reaction was I was very confused. I was very blindsided, but once that initial reaction went away, I thought about how strong I thought our relationship was,” she recalled. “So for him to end things, like, he must have been very, very hurt by everything. It was hard because I lost the love of my life, but in the process of that, I hurt him while doing so.”
The exes then came face to face for the first time since the breakup. “The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset,” Matt told her. “That’s why it was problematic because when I’m in a relationship, it means that I’m committed to that person and commitment for me, when I’m dating someone, is on track to get married. And so, when I questioned our relationship, it was in the context of you not fully understanding my Blackness and what it means to be a Black man in America and what it would mean for our kids when I saw those things that were floating around the internet. And it broke my heart because this is the last conversation I thought we’d be having. I didn’t sign up to have this conversation.”
He added: “I knew that I had to take a step back for you to put in that work that you outlined that you needed to do, and that’s something that you gotta do on your own, and that’s why we can’t be in a relationship.”
Harrison, 49, announced via Instagram on February 13 that he would be “stepping aside for a period of time” and would not join for the After the Final Rose special following backlash from an interview in which he defended season 25 contestant Kirkconnell against accusations of racism. (Matt, 29, chose the 24-year-old graphic designer — who has since apologized for her actions — during the Monday night finale.)
ABC confirmed on February 27 that Acho, 30, would replace Harrison for After the Final Rose, which was pre-taped rather than filmed in its typical live format. While the Texas native has expressed his desire to eventually return as host of the franchise, former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will take over his duties during season 17 of The Bachelorette, ABC and Warner Bros. announced on Friday, March 12.
Prior to After the Final Rose, Acho revealed his “very, very, very simple” mission as the special’s host. “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,” he explained on Good Morning America earlier this month.
The Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man author told Extra on Friday that he and Harrison spoke “at length over the last two weeks,” adding that the two had “very helpful, very good conversations.”
Elsewhere during After the Final Rose, runner-up Michelle Young claimed Matt denied her the chance for closure after their breakup by refusing to talk to her. He apologized and said he would speak to her if he could relive the moment; she forgave him and confessed she was no longer in love with him.