Chris Harrison 'Stepping Aside' from 'The Bachelor' Over Racism Comments, Won't Host 'After the Final Rose'
"The Bachelor" host Chris Harrison has announced he is "stepping aside" — at least temporarily — from his duties in the wake of his comments in an interview with "Extra's" Rachel Lindsay about contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racial insensitivity.
In a new message posted to social media, Harrison writes that he has spent days "listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful. My ignorance did damage to my friends, colleagues and strangers alike. I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke. I set standards for myself, and have not met them. I feel that with every fiber of my being. Now, just as I taught my children to stand up, and to own their actions, I will do the same."
Harrison acknowledges that in defending Kirkconnell, he was "excusing historical racism." He also disavowed his use of the phrase "woke police," writing that he is "ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong."
Coming as they did during a historically inclusive season of "The Bachelor," Harrison's remarks had sent shockwaves through Bachelor Nation. Twenty-five BIPOC-identifying women from Season 25 expressed their disappointment in Harrison:
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Accepting the impact, Harrison writes, "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. I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before."
He summed up his fresh apology with a promise to "try to evolve and be a better man."
Read the full statement below:
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Harrison's interview with “Extra’s” Rachel Lindsay, who was formerly the star of “The Bachelorette,” had raised eyebrows for his defense of Kirkconnell, a Season 25 contestant believed to have attended an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018. Harrison said, “People are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into her and her parents’ voting record. It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this?”
“I saw something that said, ‘This person is a registered Republican, therefore they are this…’ We have to be so careful when we start labeling people,” Harrison emphasized. “Where is the narrative of her falling in love with Matt? When you are trying to react to something on social media, there is no grace… I’m just going to give her the grace and the time to actually come out and speak.”
A week ago, a Reddit user uploaded a photo of Rachael from the formal, a party held yearly by the fraternity Kappa Alpha, which considers Confederate general Robert E. Lee its “spiritual founder.” Last month, a photo of Rachael wearing a Native American costume also surfaced. In addition, a former high school classmate took to TikTok to accuse Rachael of bullying her for “liking black guys.”
When Lindsay noted that the pics were “not a good look” for Kirkconnell, Harrison argued, “Well, Rachel is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”
Lindsay, who made history as the first Black Bachelorette, responded, “It’s not a good look ever. She’s celebrating the Old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent?”
“I’m not defending Rachael,” Chris stressed. “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 to. And again, I’m not defending it. I didn’t go to it.”
Chris shared his take on what may have happened. He said, “My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time. They were 18 years old. Now, does that make it okay? I don't know, Rachel — you tell me. But where is this lens we're holding up and was that lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018? I don't know. I don't have these answers."
Lindsay pointed out that, “Just because it was a popular party, you know, doesn't necessarily make it right."
Rachel also argued that it was “frustrating” that Kirkconnell had not yet addressed the photos. (She eventually issued a full apology.) In response, Chris debated that it was a “slippery slope,” adding, “She will speak — my guess — and when she does, I'm going to hear her out. And if I disagree with her, if you disagree with her, then we can have our say.”
Chris continued to show empathy for Kirkconnell, saying, “This poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions, I don't know how you are equipped when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this. And my guess is, this woman needs a little time."
Though Harrison said he didn't “think it is incumbent upon the ‘Bachelor’ franchise to speak out on everything that everyone wants to hear about on social media," he revealed that the controversy will be discussed on the ‘Women Tell All' episode. He said, "We do get into it. Rachael was not there, so we didn't get into the Rachael of it all, but Rachael will have her time to speak and hopefully I will be there to have that debate with her, and I will push her."
Harrison reiterated several times in the interview that he was not defending Rachael.
On Wednesday, Harrison apologized for the interview. He wrote on Instagram, “To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology. 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.”
“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,” Harrison continued. “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.”