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Matt James Reveals He Broke Up With Rachael Kirkconnell After Racism Controversy

ETOnline logo ETOnline 3/16/2021 Paige Gawley‍
a person smiling for the camera © ABC

Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell are over. Shortly after fans saw the pair profess their love for each other and leave The Bachelor in a committed relationship, Matt announced on After the Final Rose that they've called it quits.

Before revealing their split, Matt praised Rachael's "authenticity" and said that immediately following their happy ending on the show was "like an extended honeymoon." Then the controversy began when Rachael's past actions came to light in January. First, a TikTok user accused the graphic designer of previously bullying her for dating Black men. Then, another user accused Rachael of liking racist photos. Pics have also surfaced of her at an Old South plantation-themed party while in college. 

When Rachael's past actions became public knowledge, Matt called her photos "incredibly disappointing," and said that the situation had been "devastating and heartbreaking." Matt reiterated those feelings on Monday. 

"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 is, 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."

For Matt, Rachael's past actions took him "to a place that I often try not to think about," as someone who grew up in the south, where there are "events, people, places that I'm not welcome."

Rachael has since apologized for her past actions and asked people to stop defending them. 

"When she spoke out and publicly acknowledged that she would do better and she apologized is when I was finally able to take check on myself and see where I was at, and I wasn't OK," Matt said. "It was in that moment and the conversation that I had that [I realized that] Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America."

Then, Matt confirmed they were no longer together. 

"As Rachael acknowledged in her apology, there's a lot of work that needs to be done," he said. "I have to take a step back and allow her to put in that work, and I'm looking forward to seeing her put in that work."

Matt said the breakup conversation with Rachael was both "tough" and "heartbreaking," before explaining why the fact that her actions took place years ago didn't asuage his feelings about the situation.

"If you don't understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there's a lot of me that you won't understand. It's as simple as that," he said. "You know what was a long time ago? Plantations... I would ask those same people who are so triggered, to bring that same energy to supporting folks of color who are asking for change." 

While Matt acknowledged that his feelings for Rachael didn't "go away overnight," he still felt the need to end things.

"You can still really care about somebody and want them to do better," he said. "I don't think that anybody's irredeemable. There's a lot of processing that I have to do, and it's just not a situation that I think that I would help. [That's] why I stepped back and let her do the work that she's committed to doing."

Follow along with ET's coverage of the Bachelor finale and the After the Final Rose special here.

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