“I wholeheartedly apologize for the insensitive photo of me in Blackface from my high school yearbook that has been circulating,” the 29-year-old New Jersey native began on Thursday, September 8, via Instagram. “What I thought at the time was a representation of my love for Jimi Hendrix, was nothing but ignorance. 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.”
He concluded: “I am deeply ashamed by my actions and understand that my apology is only the first step in taking accountability.”
Erich’s statement comes shortly after the yearbook photo of him in blackface surfaced on social media. He is Gabby’s only remaining suitor as Johnny DePhillipo and Jason Alabaster were eliminated during their respective overnight dates because they weren’t ready to propose. Erich is set to meet the ICU nurse’s family in the two-part finale and will ultimately decide if he wants to get on one knee.
Nate Mitchell, who also competed for Gabby’s affections, reacted to Erich’s apology on Thursday.
“Appreciate you taking ownership bro, 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,” he wrote. “You aren’t the first person I’ve befriended with a similar past and the difference is not having an attitude of willful ignorance. Your school accepting this behavior and posting this to a year book tells me that no peers or faculty around you spoke out to guide you away from this issue. Kids do fall victim to their environments time and time again. Continue to grow and learn from your past and I’ll continue to support you and provide advice should you need/ask for it.”
Logan Palmer added: “Takes a man to talk about his mistakes. guys who have met you know what kind of person you’ve been.”
Gabby, for her part, has yet to address the situation. Earlier on Thursday, she confirmed she is set to appear on season 19 of Dancing With the Stars with pro partner Val Chmerkovskiy.
“I think it’ll be a different [experience],” she told reporters. “I feel like I’m lucky enough to kind of have momentum. I think I grew so much the last two seasons that now I get to really challenge myself in a different way. I think there is a lot of, like, actual vulnerability that comes with this position because nobody knows what you’re doing — plus, you have to perform live. It was good kind of building blocks for this, but I think it’s gonna be different in a good way.”