Chris Harrison vows to return as ‘The Bachelor’ host amid racism controversy
In his first TV interview since “stepping aside” indefinitely as host of “The Bachelor,” Chris Harrison admitted he “made a mistake” by defending a contestant at the center of a racism controversy. He also expressed a desire to return to the show.
Appearing Thursday on “Good Morning America,” Harrison addressed his controversial “Extra” interview with Rachel Lindsay — the first Black lead of “The Bachelorette” — in which they discussed the antebellum South-themed fraternity party attended by Season 25 finalist Rachael Kirkconnell in 2018.
During their viral conversation, Harrison, who is white, asked Lindsay if the event was “not a good look” in 2018 or in 2021, “because there’s a big difference.” To which Lindsay replied, “It’s not a good look ever because she’s celebrating the Old South. ... What would I represent at that party?”
“The Bachelor” star called the recent furor involving contestant Rachael Kirkconnell and host Chris Harrison “devastating and heartbreaking.”
When asked later by “GMA” co-anchor Michael Strahan if he still thought there was a “big difference,” Harrison walked back his remarks, stating, “There is not,” and that “antebellum parties are not OK — past, present, future.”
“I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that,"Harrison told Strahan. “I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to the progress — not just for myself, also for the franchise.”
Shortly after his conversation with Lindsay aired, Harrison apologized for his comments, writing, “By excusing historical racism, I defended it. ... I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong.”
Kirkconnell, who is white, has also apologized for her behavior, stating, “I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them.”
“I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay,” Harrison continued on Thursday. “I can’t believe I didn’t speak against antebellum parties, what they stand for. ... And I didn’t speak from my heart. And that is to say that I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry to Rachel Lindsay and to the Black community.”
EXCLUSIVE: “It was a mistake.” #TheBachelor host Chris Harrison apologizes for defending frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racist social media posts, telling @michaelstrahan he is an “imperfect man” who is “committed to progress.” https://t.co/OfPBBzGd9s pic.twitter.com/0EgbKV99DV— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 4, 2021
Earlier this month, the executive producers of “The Bachelor” released a statement condemning racist attacks toward Lindsay in the wake of her chat with Harrison.
Lindsay, who recently left Instagram amid an onslaught of online abuse, has said she was not satisfied with Harrison’s initial apology and is strongly considering cutting ties with the “Bachelor” franchise because of recent events.
“I’m exhausted,” she said last month on her “Higher Learning” podcast. “I have truly had enough. ... I wanted to be representative as a Black woman to this audience. ... I wanted the franchise to be better ... but how much more can I take of things like this?”
Amid Harrison’s suspension, Season 25’s “After the Final Rose” special will be hosted by Emmanuel Acho, the bestselling author of “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man.”
During the show later this month, Acho will moderate a discussion among Kirkconnell, her fellow finalists and the program’s first Black “Bachelor,” Matt James.
“Chris’s failure to receive and understand the emotional labor that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on by graciously and patiently explaining the racist history of the Antebellum South, a painful history that every American should understand intimately, was troubling and painful to watch,” James wrote last month in a statement.
The controversy that erupted around the series this week drew in contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, host Chris Harrison and former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay.
“As Black people and allies immediately knew and understood, it was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years.”
On “GMA,” Harrison vowed to reprise his role as “Bachelor” host. Prior to its most recent controversy, the veteran emcee had been the face of the series and its many spinoffs for nearly 20 years.
“I plan to be back and I want to be back. And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change,” Harrison said Thursday. “I know that change is felt, not just by me, but by many others. And we are excited and willing to do the work to show that progress.
“This interview is not the finish line,” he added. “There is much more work to be done. And I am excited to be a part of that change.”
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.