Bachelorette Alum Kenny King Has 'Utmost Respect' for Rachel Lindsay amid Franchise Controversy

Kenny King is standing by his former Bachelorette.

King, who was a contestant on Rachel Lindsay's season of The Bachelorette in 2017, spoke out in support of Lindsay while weighing in on the current controversy plaguing the ABC franchise.

"I had nothing but the utmost respect for Rachel. I thought many times about what it must have been like for Rachel, what she must have went through, being the very first Black Bachelorette," King, 39, told Entertainment Tonight.

King praised Lindsay, 35, for being able to let her personality shine during her season despite the immense amount of "pressure" she faced as the franchise's first Black lead.

"Still be genuine. Still be thoroughly Rachel. Still stand on her square and her morals and find who she wanted to love despite, I'm sure, the pressure that she felt that she had to find a Black man on that show," King said. "She stood with, you know, who she wanted to be with… and I have nothing but respect for her for that."

The recent controversy arose when Rachael Kirkconnell, a 24-year-old frontrunner on Matt James' current season of The Bachelor, was called out for old social media posts which saw her dressed in Native American attire in costume and attending an antebellum plantation-themed college party in 2018. She has since apologized.

Longtime franchise host Chris Harrison first addressed the situation during an interview with Lindsay on Extra last month. During their 14-minute, unedited conversation, he said people should have "a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion" in the wake of the resurfaced photos and questioned the "lens" of 2021 compared to 2018. After receiving backlash for his comments, Harrison announced he would be "stepping away" from the franchise and apologized. But Lindsay continued to receive online hate, prompting her to deactivate her Instagram account due to harassment.

"Rachel didn't do anything. Rachel just conducted an interview and allowed, you know, someone to more or less tell on themselves," King said. "So, you know, it is unfortunate that she has received the amount of negative reaction to feel like you have to deactivate Instagram."

Comparing the show to the United States as a whole, King said the franchise still has much to improve on.

"You can look at [it] almost like a microcosm of the United States," he said. "We have strides made in [ways] and lots of great things have happened, but in the end, we still have lots more to go."

On Thursday, Harrison, 49, apologized further during an appearance on Good Morning America, his first TV interview since the drama erupted.

"It was a mistake, I made a mistake," he told GMA's Michael Strahan. "I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake, and I own that."

"I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay," he continued, adding that he is working with "a race educator and strategist," as well as faith leaders and scholars like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. "I didn't speak for my heart, that is to say I stand against all forms of racism … I'm sorry to Rachel Lindsay and I'm sorry to the Black community."

Harrison eyed a return to the franchise, saying, "I plan to be back and I want to be back," adding that he is "committed to progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise."

Emmanuel Acho has been tapped to host the upcoming After the Final Rose special later this month, the live conclusion to James' season.

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