Bachelor host Chris Harrison appeared on Good Morning America for an interview after his controversial comments about Rachael Kirkconnell‘s past racist behavior fueled backlash from fans and stars of the franchise.

“It was a mistake,” he said in the interview, which aired on Thursday, March 4. “I made a mistake. I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake. And I own that.”

Harrison, 49, temporarily stepped back from his role on the ABC series on February 13 following his interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, in which he discussed season 25 contestant Kirkconnell’s racism scandal.

At the time, the TV host explained that he would be taking some time away from the franchise because “this historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions.” 

Bachelor's Rachael Kirkconnell Drama: Bullying, Racism and More
ABC/Craig Sjodin

That said, he “plans to be back” as host once again. “I want to be back. And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change,” he explained. “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. There is much more work to be done. And I am excited to be a part of that change.”

During the interview, Harrison revealed he “sought out leading scholars, teachers, faith leaders, people like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who I am so grateful for, and I’ve also been working closely with a race educator and strategist. I thank them all.” He continued, “But Dr. Dyson often talks to me about council. Not cancel, and that is full accountability, understanding what you didn’t understand, owning that, learning from that, seeking counsel often in the community that you hurt, learning from them, listening, gaining experience, knowledge and moving forward. … To anyone who is throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay, please stop It’s unacceptable.”

Although Harrison initially seemed to show support to Kirkconnell, 24, in his interview with Lindsay, he ultimately apologized for his remarks and expressed that he was deeply remorseful. “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 wrote in his statement via Instagram while announcing he “will not join for theAfter the Final Rose special.” 

Matt James, 29, is the first Black lead of The Bachelor, which is why fans were livid when front-runner Kirkconnell was accused of previously liking a number of racist posts on Instagram, in addition to allegedly bullying a woman from her high school for liking Black men. Amid the shocking claims, photos surfaced of James’ front-runner attending an “Old South” plantation party at Georgia College & State University in 2018. 

Bachelor Host Chris Harrison Speaks Out Amid Controversy GMA
ABC/Craig Sjodin

Following the heated response to Harrison’s interview on the subject, Lindsay, 35, deactivated her Instagram account because she was subject to a flurry of cruel messages online. On Monday, March 1, the official Bachelor Nation account posted a statement to condemn the “severe” online bullying she was facing. 

“As executive producers of The Bachelor franchise we would like to make it perfectly clear that any harassment directed towards Rachel Lindsay in the aftermath of her interview with Chris Harrison is completely inexcusable,” the message from their behind-the-scenes team read. “Rachel has received an unimaginable amount of hate and has been subjected to severe online bullying, which, more often than not, has been rooted in racism. That is totally unacceptable. Rachel has been an incredible advocate for our cast, and we are grateful that she has worked tirelessly towards racial equity and inclusion.”