Chris Harrison is out as ‘Bachelor’ host. How his 20-year stint came undone
In the aftermath of a racism controversy that engulfed the first Black Bachelor’s season earlier this year, Chris Harrison is officially parting ways with the popular reality series, network ABC and production company Warner Horizon announced Tuesday.
“Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of ‘The Bachelor’ franchise,” read the joint statement. “We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey.”
Harrison posted his own statement on Instagram: “I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of The Bachelor franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter. I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together. While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime.”
After pledging ‘real change’ amid last year’s protests, ABC and owner Walt Disney Co. stayed silent as a firestorm over race consumed its reality-TV flagship.
“The Bachelor” faced a racial reckoning last season after photos surfaced of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell at an Old South-themed party in 2018. Harrison himself was caught up in the scandal following an interview with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black “Bachelorette,” in which he made racially insensitive statements minimizing those images. Soon thereafter, Harrison announced he was stepping back from Season 25 of “The Bachelor” before the finale aired.
The end of Harrison’s long tenure as the face and voice of the franchise comes one year after last summer’s protests against police brutality spurred disappointed “Bachelor” fans to action. Spearheaded by the Bachelor Diversity Campaign, a petition was created last June, demanding change from the franchise and expressing viewers’ frustration with the lack of diverse representation on the show. In 18 years and 40 seasons of the series, Lindsay was the only Black lead.
Later that month, 29-year-old Matt James was announced as the first Black “Bachelor.” His season kicked off in January, boasting the most diverse cast ever — only to be derailed by fans’ discovery of the 3-year-old photos of Kirkconnell.
The franchise attempts to turn the corner after a season tarnished by controversy as two former “Bachelorettes” step in for host Chris Harrison.
In an interview about the images with Lindsay for “Extra,” Harrison stated that “there is a big difference” between 2018 and 2021 and used the term “woke police” to describe those who were demanding accountability. The interview elicited a social media outcry and resulted in an apology from Kirkconnell as well as Harrison, who said that he “will always own a mistake” and promised “to do better.”
Harrison later posted on Instagram that he would be “stepping aside for a period of time” and would not be joining the “After the Final Rose” special. Ex-NFL player Emmanuel Acho hosted the finale, which featured a sit-down conversation between Kirkconnell and James. While the two claimed they were no longer a couple when the special aired, James shared weeks later that he would be pursuing a relationship with Kirkconnell.
By contrast, it appears that Harrison and the franchise were unable to reconcile. The season premiere of “The Bachelorette,” starring Katie Thurston, aired without a hitch on Monday, with former “Bachelorettes” Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe front and center. Though it went unmentioned in the episode, Harrison’s absence was noted by some fans, who commented on social media that he was a victim of “cancel culture” and vowed to boycott the new season.
Staff writer Greg Braxton contributed to this report.
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