What ‘Bachelor’ stars Matt James and Chris Harrison had to say about race

Amid the franchise’s reckoning with race, James, the first Black “Bachelor,” said ahead of his season that he hoped his role would help pave the way for more “Bachelor”s and “Bachelorette”s of color.
2:55 | 02/24/21

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Transcript for What ‘Bachelor’ stars Matt James and Chris Harrison had to say about race
We move to our "Gma" cover story, new bachelor interviews before Matt handed out his first rose and before Chris stepped away from the show because of his comments about race. Juju Chang spoke to both of them. Good morning, juju. Reporter: Good morning, George. You know, it was supposed to be the breakthrough season with the first ever black bachelor. Instead the show's host is under fire for racial insensitivity and some of that criticism is coming from an unlikely source, the star of the show, the bachelor himself. Why do you think it took so long. You know what, I don't know. I can't speak on what took place before I got there but I was honored to be the first and hopefully the first of many. Reporter: The first black bachelor. In its 25-year history 29-year-old Matt James breaking through. I spoke to James and longtime host Chris Harrison in January before the season debut. What I'm into and what I'm looking for isn't race specific, you know. I'm looking for someone caring, honest, loving, caring, compassionate and that happens to fall across a broad array of women. Reporter: Harrison also weighing in on the franchise's lack of diversity. What does it say about our culture? Wow, that's a big question. I don't know what that says. I don't know. I'm a big fan of it's never too late to do the right thing and when that is done that is good. Reporter: But a season meant to be a turning point towards racial awareness now facing criticism from its own star. Earlier this week James sharing in an Instagram post the reality is that I'm learning about these situations in realtime and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly. The statement coming after these 3-year-old photos of Rachael Kirkconnell at an old south antebellum themed party complete with period costumes going viral. James describing them as incredibly disappointing. Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018 or not a good look in 2021? It's not a good look ever. Reporter: Harrison coming to Kirkconnell's defense in an interview with Rachel Lindsay saying she faced criticism from the woke police. She's celebrating the old south. If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party? Reporter: Before Harrison stepped down amidst this controversy, he shared a similar sentiment with me in January on the subject of cancel culture. I like to be open. I wish people would be -- I think when people sit and have these conversations, they're scared. They're worried. Reporter: James told me that he was hoping his role would usher in more bachelors and bachelorettes of color down the road. Now at the beginning of the season both he and Chris Harrison told me that if all went well no one would be talking about the black bachelor, just the bachelor who happened to be black, that no one would be talking about race. But that's not exactly how it's playing out, George.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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