“The Bachelor” franchise is no stranger to controversy, and after being embroiled in a race-related scandal in recent years, the ABC dating show addressed a contestant controversy head-on in the latest episode.
Greer Blitzer is a contestant on the current season of “The Bachelor,” which stars leading man Zach Shallcross. Before the season premiered, Reddit users unearthed former tweets from 2016 where Blitzer defended wearing blackface. The reality star apologized on her own social media in January for the racially insensitive tweets, but the show had not addressed the controversy until now.
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On Tuesday’s episode of “The Bachelor: Women Tell All,” host Jesse Palmer put Blitzer in the hot seat and asked her to address the backlash regarding her “troubling” and “disturbing” posts, in front of a studio audience.
“The truth is, as a franchise, we’ve done a very poor job in the past of addressing serious topics head-on, and we’re not going to miss that opportunity here tonight,” Palmer said.
“I’ve been wanting to address this. I don’t want to sweep it under the rug,” Blitzer told Palmer. “What happened was racist. It’s not about the intent; it’s about the impact.”
The scandal surrounding Blitzer surfaced last year once “The Bachelor” Season 27 cast was announced. In her old tweets, Blitzer defended a high school student for wearing blackface, allegedly tweeting in 2016, “The students involved didn’t even know what blackface was so my point exactly. It wasn’t an intentional racist act.” Another alleged tweet read, “This previous incident was dumb not racist? She did not paint herself black because she felt superior to black ppl.” And in another, Blitzer allegedly wrote, “Putting white powder on your face isn’t okay either. That didn’t make the news did it?
On Tuesday evening’s episode, Blitzer explained, “This acquaintance of mine that I knew performing blackface was racist, me defending it was racist, my ignorance was racist and I’m just so ashamed.”
“I’m just deeply sorry that I hurt the Black community,” she said. “I can’t go back in time. All I can do is try to be better now and try to do better in my future.”
Blitzer said she has educated herself, studied lectures and has been working with Dr. Kira Banks, a professor and diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Dr. Banks was seated in the audience at “Women Tell All,” and addressed the larger issue, speaking about taking real action versus performative words.
“I really wanted to dive deep into the history of blackface and understand why it was wrong, why it was offensive. The research that I was able to do, I realized it was symbolism for dehumanizing the Black community,” Blitzer said. “What I said was wrong,” she added. “Defending that girl was racist. I want to take that accountability, I don’t want to excuse it.”
This is certainly not “The Bachelor’s” first run-in with controversial contestants who have problematic pasts. Over the years, viewers have questioned the franchise’s process of background checks, especially in the age of social media.
On the most recent season of “The Bachelorette,” which aired last year, winner Erich Schwer was at the center of controversy for wearing blackface himself when a photo of him from his high school yearbook surfaced online. He apologized on social media for what he called an “insensitive photo.” In an interview with Variety“The Bachelorette” star Gabby Windey (who is no longer in a relationship with Schwer) said, “He apologized, but ultimately there’s really no excuse for this behavior.”
On Season 25 of “The Bachelor,” which starred Matt James and aired in 2021, an explosive scandal erupted involving winning contestant Rachael Kirkconnell that ultimately resulted in the departure of veteran host Chris Harrison (who was then replaced with Palmer). James was the first-ever Black star of the long-running show, and he fell in love with Kirkconnell, who ended up being at the center of a racially insensitive controversy. During the season, photos from 2018 surfaced on social media, showing her in attendance at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal. Harrison defended Kirkconnell in a now-infamous TV interview, conducted by former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay, who was the first Black female star of the franchise, where he invoked the term “woke police.” He apologized for “wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism,” but the messy situation never died down, and Harrison eventually left the franchise. (Today, James and Kirkconnell are still happily together.)
And in 2017, when Lindsay’s historic season aired with her being the first-ever Black lead on “The Bachelor” franchise, one of her contestants had racist and sexist tweets on social media.
Blitzer received the first impression rose from Shallcross on the season, meaning she was an early frontrunner. She was sent home on last week’s episode, so she is no longer in the competition. She appeared on “Women Tell All,” which brings together the cast members to discuss (and bicker) about the drama on the season.
Immediately after the conversation with Blitzer aired, many social media users praised Blitzer and “The Bachelor” for a head-on apology and for not dancing the conversation. Others criticized the contestant for needing to speak with a DEI consultant to understand that defending blackface is racist.
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