“Happy Birthday to my emergency contact,” Matt James wrote on Instagram this week to his girlfriend Rachael Kirkconnell in celebration of her 25th, complete with celebratory emojis, a Bible verse, and a carousel of photos commemorating their relationship.
Those names should sound familiar because the duo made countless headlines, imploded an entire hit franchise, and even got a longtime and beloved TV host booted from his post. Matt James was the first black “Bachelor,” and Rachael Kirkconnell was the front-running contestant whose college-era photos were dredged up in the middle of the season airing and used to turn the remainder of it into a forced racial reckoning. After dramatically breaking up over it, they reconciled and have now been dating for months.
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It would be sweet if the whole ordeal had boiled down to a past mistake coming between lovers, only for them to exercise grace and forgiveness and come out the other side stronger and wiser. That’s not what happened — meaning James left a few memorable photos out of his sappy birthday post.
If you’re not familiar with the saga, I’ll spare you the long version. But the CliffsNotes include a young white girl on a landmark season of “The Bachelor,” a relentless internet mob that uncovered college photos of her in a frilly dress at an Old South party, a host who refrained from immediate judgment and instead asked for the mob to give her “a little grace,” even more vitriol against said host and his subsequent dramatic ouster, and then an on-air racial struggle session between the troubled contestant and the bachelor during the finale.
The finale ended in James telling Kirkconnell that their relationship wouldn’t work because of her “not fully understanding” his “blackness” and then James refusing to initiate a “final embrace.”
“Bachelor” viewership tanked by more than 1 million. Casting for the next season of “Bachelor in Paradise” was a nightmare because nobody wanted to jump aboard the turbulent train of woke politics in entertainment. And worst of all, fan-favorite host Chris Harrison, who had hosted for almost two decades and had become the face of the franchise, was given the boot — not for being a racist himself but for not immediately helping to cancel a girl who had been accused of racism.
It wasn’t long after that the couple was spotted once again flitting about New York City together, with entertainment media soon fawning over their cutesy social media posts. Many of them missed the reality of the situation: Wokeness ruined Bachelor Nation only for the black bachelor to get back together with a purported “racist.”
So where are those photos? In his IG birthday tribute, James remembered a picture of the pair from one of their televised dates, plus one of Kirkconnell with an ice cream cone and one of her holding a kitten. Where were the pics of Kirkconnell crying while James explained her “problematic” behavior in front of millions of people? Or of James refusing to give her a hug after verbally wrecking her? Or of Kirkconnell publicly flogging herself?
Today, Matt James is still making headlines and getting the spotlight because he was swooped up to participate in this season of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” (Despite James’ role in hemorrhaging viewers from the other ABC show, the network was apparently undeterred from casting him again.) And he and Kirkconnell are living happily ever after.
The duo can post whatever photos they’d like on Instagram, but let’s not forget all that they destroyed to get here.