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

Rachael accepted Matt's final rose, but the pair called it quits shortly thereafter.

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."

Next, Rachael spoke to host Emmanuel Acho, who led the show after Chris Harrison stepped aside from the franchise due to his involvement in the controversy, about what she thinks when she sees the photo of herself at the Old South plantation-themed party now.

"I see someone who was living in this ignorance without even thinking about who it would be hurting. I never once asked myself at any point, like, 'What's the tradition behind this? What does this represent? Why do we wear those dresses?'" she said. "I'm not gonna sit here and say that I didn't know any better, because I could've easily asked myself those questions. No, I never took the time to make that connection, 'cause if I would have taken the time, I easily could've understood what was wrong with it."

Rachael said that "there's no excuse" for her previous ignorance.

"I did get a lot of people saying, 'This is normal where I grew up. I don't think that that's what that stood for. I didn't know that, so it can't be racist, 'cause I'm not a racist,'" Rachael said. "I think that people need to realize that just saying, 'This is normal where I came from,' or, 'This is common where I came from,' that doesn't make it right, and that doesn't make it OK."

As for why Rachael didn't immediately apologize when her past actions came to light, she said she wanted to "not just say the right words just to have people accept them, but I wanted myself to really understand exactly why people were so hurt by this." 

Rachael also addressed her breakup with Matt, admitting that she was initially "very confused" when he called her to speak about the controversy.

"I was very blindsided, but once that initial reaction went away, I thought about how strong I thought our relationship was. So for him to end things, he must have been very, very hurt by everything," she said. "It was hard, because I lost the love of my life, but in the process of that, I hurt him while doing so."

"I love him so much, and I always will," she added. "I do feel like I finally do know what real love feels like."

Matt came out next, in order to speak to Rachael face-to-face. 

"I really just wanna take the time to say I'm really sorry. Once I really tried to put myself into your shoes as much as I could... I realized that that must have been really hard for you. You must have been hurting," Rachael told Matt. "I just wanted to say I'm really sorry for not understanding that initially. I'm really sorry that I hurt you."

Matt called the situation "heartbreaking," "devastating" and "disappointing," before emotionally sighing and trying to gather his thoughts while Rachael rubbed his back. 

"The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset... because when I'm in a relationship, it means that I'm committed to that person," Matt told Rachael. "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."

"It broke my heart, because this is the last conversation I thought we'd be having," he continued. "I didn't sign up to have this conversation. And 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. That's something that you gotta do on your own, and that's why we can't be in a relationship."

Rachael told Matt that he was "the only reason" she decided to do the show, adding that she's "never experienced a love like this." 

"I don't see anyone else out there for me," she said. "At this point, I just don't see how I can have these same feelings for someone else."

For Matt, though, getting back together is out of the question.

"The feelings that I have for you don't go away overnight, and seeing you like this hurts," he said. "But... I don't wanna be emotionally responsible for those tears, 'cause the work and the reconciliation that needs to be done is work that I can't do for you." 

"I know that you're capable of doing it, and the last thing I want is for people to be calling to have you canceled or people to be calling you out for things," he continued. "I really want them to call you in, and I want you to do this work because that's the best thing that could come out of this, and that's something that she's gotta do on her own."

Through tears, Rachael told Matt "all I want is for you to be happy. I just want what's best for you. I am sorry. I just thank God for ever putting you in my life to begin with. I'll always be thankful for everything that we shared and the time that we did have together."

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