‘The Bachelor’ host Chris Harrison is ‘stepping aside’ amid controversy

A racial controversy on "The Bachelor" may have claimed its first victim: host Chris Harrison.
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

The first season of “The Bachelor” to feature a Black leading man (Matt James) has generated a racial controversy whose first casualty appears to be … host Chris Harrison.

The 49-year-old host, after defending a contestant’s history of racially questionable actions, announced via Instagram on Saturday that he would be “stepping aside” for an undisclosed period, including the post-finale special, “After the Final Rose.” Harrison, who is white, has hosted the show and several spinoffs since it debuted in 2002.

Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James on "The Bachelor"
Contestant Rachael Kirkconnell with “The Bachelor” star Matt James.
(Craig Sjodin / ABC)

“I have spent the last few 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,” he wrote, in part.

“By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term ‘woke police,’ which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong.”

For those unfamiliar with the controversy, one of the leading contestants on the current season, Rachael Kirkconnell, who is white, had come under fire on social media. TikTok user Maddy Bierster wrote, “girlieeee, remember when you bullied me in high school for liking black guys???” Another user, The Feminist Mama, attacked Kirkconnell for her apparent conservative political leanings, but also for liking Instagram photos with Confederate flags in them and dressing up as a Native American. Recently, a 2018 photo surfaced that may be Kirkconnell at a plantation-themed fraternity formal.

The controversy that erupted around the series this week drew in contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, host Chris Harrison and former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay.

Feb. 12, 2021

James, who had said on the show that he was “falling in love” with Kirkconnell, urged caution regarding the accusations in a Feb. 2 interview: “Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people’s lives. So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully she will have her time to speak on that.”

On Feb. 9, Harrison was interviewed by former “Bachelorette” contestant Rachel Lindsay, who is black on “Extra.” When Lindsay called the frat party photo of Kirkconnell “not a good look,” Harrison asked, “Is it [not] a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?


“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 OK? I don’t know, Rachel, you tell me. Were we all looking through [that lens] in 2018?”

Following a backlash, he issued an initial apology on Instagram on Wednesday.

Kirkconnell, for her part, issued an Instagram apology of her own Thursday, saying in part, “I’m here to say I was wrong. At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. 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 … I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions.”