Longtime Bachelor host Chris Harrison is stepping aside from the franchise “for a period of time” amidst a growing controversy over recent comments he made defending one of this season’s contestants against allegations of racism.
Earlier this week, Harrison gave an interview to Extra during which he downplayed the past behavior of Rachael Kirkconnell. As Kirkconnell advanced further into this season of The Bachelor, a viral TikTok purported to reveal the contestant “liking” posts containing the Confederate flag and sharing QAnon conspiracy theories. Additionally, photos surfaced of her attending an “Old South” plantation-themed party in 2018 (via The Hollywood Reporter).
Speaking to Extra correspondent Rachel Lindsay, who herself was the first-ever Black Bachelorette in 2017, Harrison argued that the timing of Kirkconnell’s actions should be part of the discussion. “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference. Where is this lens we’re holding up and was this lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018?”
When Lindsay reminded Harrison that it’s “not a good look ever” to celebrate the Old South, The Bachelor host pushed back “I’m not defending Rachael, I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went too. … Where is this lens we’re holding up and was this lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018?”
On Wednesday, a day after his appearance on Extra aired, Harrison posted a statement to Instagram apologizing for “wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.” He wrote, “I have this incredible platform to speak about love, and yesterday I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed.”
In a follow-up post on Saturday, Harrison announced he would be temporarily stepping away from the franchise. “This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions,” he commented. “To that end, I have consulted with Warner Bros. and ABC and will be stepping aside for a period of time and will not join for the After the Final Rose special.”
He added, “I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before. I want to ensure our cast and crew members, to my friends, colleagues and our fans: this is not just a moment, but a commitment to much greater understanding that I will actively make every day.”
Kirkconnell has also issued a statement apologizing for her past conduct. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them,” she wrote. “My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”