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'Bachelor's Rachael Kirkconnell apologizes for 'offensive and racist' actions

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell says she is sorry for her "offensive and racist" actions.

The 24-year-old television personality apologized in an Instagram post Thursday after facing criticism for past racially insensitive photos and social media posts.

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Kirkconnell is a contestant in The Bachelor Season 25 starring Matt James, the show's first Black Bachelor. Since the season's premiere, photos have surfaced of Kirkconnell at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity party, along with screenshots of her liking racist posts.

In her post Thursday, Kirkconnell acknowledged recent reports and said her actions were wrong and stemmed from ignorance.

"At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist," Kirkconnell said.

"I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended," she added. "I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one's responsibility to educate me. I am learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist, because it's important to speak up in the moment and not after you're called out."

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Kirkconnell said she will work to prevent people from "making the same offensive mistakes" and will take accountability for her actions.

"Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions. I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong," she said. "I don't think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions."

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Bachelor host Chris Harrison apologized Wednesday after defending Kirkconnell during an interview with former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay. Harrison took issue with the "woke police" criticizing Kirkconnell and said the contestant had been "thrown to the lions."

In his apology, Harrison said he spoke in a manner that "perpetuates racism."

"While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf," he said. "What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry."

25 contestants from The Bachelor Season 25, including Kirkconnell, Serena Chew and Abigail Heringer, decried Harrison's remarks in a joint statement Thursday.

"We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism. Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized," the post reads.

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The Bachelor airs Mondays on ABC. During Thursday's episode of Watch What Happens Live, James responded to calls for Katie Thurston to become the next Bachelorette.

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