In the world of The Bachelorette, Erich Schwer and Gabby Windey may be this season’s first successful couple — a path made clear once Gabby’s other two suitors weren’t ready for an engagement. Whether Erich himself is ready is still TBD, of course, as the latest promo teases some drama ahead for the couple. But off-screen, a different kind of controversy is unfolding for the real estate analyst and (potential) Bachelorette winner. As Entertainment Weekly reports, a yearbook photo of Erich in blackface was posted on Reddit on Sept. 7. In addition to showing a photo of Erich’s senior portrait, u/amberrmarie1 also shared a page with students dressed up in costumes — and Erich can be seen in blackface, wearing a wig.
The next day, Erich responded to the resurfaced image on Instagram — expressing his desire to “wholeheartedly apologize for the insensitive photo.”
“What I thought at the time was a representation of my love for Jimi Hendrix, was nothing but ignorance,” he continued. “I was naïve to the hurtful implications of my actions to the Black community and those closest to me, and will forever regret my offensive and damaging behavior. I am deeply ashamed by my actions and understand that my apology is only the first step in taking accountability.”
So far, Gabby hasn’t responded to the photo — though it may be addressed during The Bachelorette’s two-part finale, which begins Sept. 13 and includes the live After the Final Rose component.
In the meantime, a fellow contender from Gabby’s team offered his thoughts on Erich’s photo. Nate Mitchell — who left the show after Gabby told him she wasn’t ready to be a mom — left a comment on Erich’s apology post, thanking him for “taking ownership” of the offensive costume. “I can’t absolve you of this but I can attest to the man I’ve met and you have been nothing less than someone who I’d consider a friend,” Nate continued. “You aren’t the first person I’ve befriended with a similar past and the difference is not having an attitude of willful ignorance.”
Nate added that children “fall victim to their environments time and time again,” referencing Erich’s school staff and friends who didn’t “guide [him] away from this issue.” The electrical engineer — who many, including Gabby herself, theorize could be the next Bachelor — concluded his message with an invitation to Erich. “Continue to grow and learn from your past and I’ll continue to support you and provide advice should you need/ask for it.”