Bachelor, The: Scandal over Racist Remarks Leads to Host Harrison Stepping Away

Chris Harrison Steps Away From ‘The Bachelor’ After Controversial Interview

Chris Harrison

ABC/Craig Sjodin
Chris Harrison is stepping aside from The Bachelor franchise “for a period of time,” after growing controversy over his recent interview about a contestant on the current season.” This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions,” the longtime host and producer of the ABC reality franchise said on Saturday. “To that end, I have consulted with Warner 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.”

In his lengthy post, Harrison did not specify how long he would be stepping away from the franchise.

Harrison has hosted The Bachelor and its spinoffs, including The Bachelorette, since the ABC franchise first launched in 2002.

News of Harrison’s departure comes days after interview with former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay aired, to much backlash, on Extra. During Tuesday’s 13-minute interview, Harrison waded into the racism controversy that emerged over Rachael Kirkconnell, a frontrunner on Matt James’ historic season of The Bachelor, which is currently airing and still weeks away from its finale.

James is the franchise’s first-ever Black Bachelor.

After The Bachelor premiered in early January, questions over Kirkconnell’s social media behavior began to circulate when it was revealed the contestant “liking” posts containing the Confederate flag and sharing QAnon conspiracy theories.

Then, last weekend, resurfaced photos on appeared to show the Georgia native, who is 24, attending an “Old South” plantation-themed college party in 2018. Kirkconnell verified the online activity when she posted an apology after Harrison’s interview aired, and followed up her post with joint statement from her entire cast denouncing any defense of racism.

When Harrison spoke to Lindsay, Kirkconnell had yet to publicly address the allegations. When pressed about the silence from both Kirkconnell and the franchise from Lindsay–who was the first-ever Black Bachelorette in 2017 and currently hosts a franchise podcast, Bachelor Happy Hour–Harrison refused to condemn Kirkconnell’s behavior.

“Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference,” he asked Lindsay in reference to the “Old South” party photos. “Where is this lens we’re holding up and was this lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018?”

The interview received backlash and prompted Harrison to release an apology for “wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.” He wrote on Wednesday, “While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf. What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry. I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better.”

Kirkconnell said in her statement: “I’m here to say I was wrong. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.” She apologized to the communities and individuals who were harmed by her actions and acknowledged how viewers must be “sick” of reading such apology statements amid a recent wave of public figures coming under fire. “I want to put my energy towards preventing people from making the same offensive mistakes that I made in the first place, and I hope I can prove this to you moving forward,” she added.

The statement noted that the 25 women who identify as BIPOC who were cast on James’ season “denounce any defense of racism” and stand with Lindsay after her interview with Harrison.

James, along with The Bachelorette stars Tayshia Adams and Clare Crawley, denounced the interview in their own statements. James said of Lindsay, “Your advocacy of BIPOC people in the franchise is invaluable, I stand with you and the rest of the women advocating for change and accountability.” Adams said she was “hurt and disappointed and confused at the ignorance” and clarified that she does not align with the franchise’s actions this week. Crawley noted, “I have been listening to conversations and discussions as an ally and will always continue to learn, denounce and support BIPOC in the fight against racism.”