'Bachelor' Matt James Says He Felt Pressure to Choose a Black Contestant After Criticism of Rachel Lindsay
By Rachel McRady
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Matt James felt the weight of his role as the first Black man to star on The Bachelor. On Thursday, James appeared on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen where the host asked him about feeling pressure about who'd he choose on the final episode.
ET can confirm that the WWHL episode with James was taped before Bachelor host Chris Harrison apologized for his controversial comments to Rachel Lindsay surrounding Rachael Kirkconnell, a contestant on James' season who is being accused of liking racist photos, and who also posed at an Old South plantation-themed party while in college. Lindsay, however, did still come up in conversation.
"I've talked to Rachel Lindsay a lot about her time on the show and her experience," Cohen said, referencing the first Black Bachelorette, who ultimately chose Bryan Abasolo to be her fiancé and now husband. "I wonder if you can talk to me a little bit about the pressure on you to choose a Black girl at the end of the season?"
"That was definitely a lot of pressure I put on myself initially," James admitted. "When I got there, being the first Black Bachelor, people are going to be looking to you for a lot of different things and whenever I felt that pressure, I just fell back on how I was raised and what I was looking for and a lot of those qualities have nothing to do with race and they're where your heart's at."
James went on to list some of the things he's looking for, saying, "Are you caring? Are you compassionate? Thank goodness that cast was so diverse and that made up a lot of what I was looking for and it made my decision so much easier with that quality of woman there."
He added that though he never appeared on The Bachelorette, the executives were able to pick a group of contestants for his season that reflected the values that were important to him.
"They did a great job," he said of his season's casting. "Across the board what I was looking for, I saw. As the season continues it's very evident that they did their job and did their part to make sure it was everything represented."
At the start of his season, James opened up to ET about the pressure he felt as the first Black Bachelor.
"I felt a lot [of pressure]," he said at the time. "What I'm looking for isn't specific to a race and I was extremely excited about the group of women that I saw. It represented everybody and that's what I was looking for."