Longtime Bachelor host Chris Harrison is exiting the franchise after 20 years, Life & Style confirmed on June 8. The emcee’s departure comes four months after his controversial comments about Rachael Kirkconnell‘s racism scandal — but what did he say? Here’s everything we know about his problematic statements concerning Matt James‘ contestant.
“First and foremost, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to Rachael about it. And this is, again, where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion,” Harrison said during the interview. “Because I’ve seen some stuff online — again this judge-jury-executioner thing — where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents 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?”
The season 13 lead, 36, went on to ask him about photos of Kirkconnell at an Antebellum-themed fraternity party at a plantation. Lindsay asserted that the photos, which were taken in 2018, were “not a good look” for Kirkconnell amid claims the contestant had liked racist Facebook posts and mistreated a high school classmate for “liking Black guys.”
“You’re 100 percent right in 2021,” Harrison responded to Lindsay. “That was not the case in 2018. And again, I’m not defending Rachael. 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.”
The following day, the Texas native took to Instagram to apologize for his comments during the interview. “To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology,” he wrote via Instagram. “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.”
“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,” he continued. “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.”
On February 13, Harrison revealed he would be temporarily stepping back from his hosting role with the franchise in an effort to get “educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before.”
“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, my colleagues and strangers alike,” the ABC personality wrote in an Instagram statement. “I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke. I set standards for myself and I 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.”
He added, “This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions. To that end, I have consulted with Warner Brothers and ABC and will be stepping aside for a period of time and will not join for the After the Final Rose special.”
The longtime host confirmed he plans to return to the franchise when he appeared for a follow-up interview with Good Morning America, which aired on March 4. “I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise. And this is a franchise that has been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years, and I love it,” Harrison said.
Kirkconnell released her own apology on February 11. “While there have been rumors circulating, there have also been truths that have come to light that I need to address. I hear you, and I’m here to say I was wrong,” the Cumming, Georgia, native wrote via Instagram. “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 OK in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
“I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended,” her statement continued. “I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me. I am learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist, because it’s important to speak up in the moment and not after you’re called out. If you are a person who doesn’t understand the offense in question, I urge you to learn from my mistakes and encourage you to use them as a teachable moment.”
Nearly two weeks later, James spoke out about the controversies surrounding Kirkconnell and Harrison. “The past few weeks have been some of the most challenging of my life,” the 29-year-old wrote in a statement on February 22.
“The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real-time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly,” he continued via Instagram. “Chris’ 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 immediately, was troubling and painful to watch. 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.”
He added, “It has also pushed me to reevaluate and process what my experience on The Bachelor represents, not just for me, but for all of the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home. I will continue to process this experience, and you will hear more from me in the end.”
On March 12, ABC revealed that Harrison would not be hosting season 17 of The Bachelorette.
“We support Chris in the work that he is committed to doing. In his absence, former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will support the new Bachelorette through next season,” the network revealed via an Instagram statement. “As we continue the dialogue around achieving greater equality and inclusion within The Bachelor franchise, we are dedicated to improving the BIPOC representation of our crew, including among the executive producer ranks. These are important steps in effecting fundamental change so that our franchise is a celebration of love that is reflective of our world.”
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