After nearly two decades as the host of The BachelorChris Harrison is being replaced by Bachelorette alums Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe for season 17 of the series.

“Chris Harrison will not be hosting next season of The Bachelorette,” read ABC’s statement via Instagram on Friday, March 12. “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. 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.”

The ABC personality, 49, made headlines in February 2021 for his controversial comments about season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell. Matt James‘ frontrunner, 24, faced backlash after photos of her attending an “Old South” plantation party at Georgia College & State University in 2018 surfaced, where the women were dressed in Antebellum-style gowns. Moreover, Rachael was accused of bullying a classmate in high school for “liking Black men,” and previously “liking” racist photos on social media.

Chris was accused of defending Rachael while speaking to former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay in a virtual interview with Extra on February 9. “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,” the Texas native told Rachel, 32, who was the first-ever Black leading lady in season 13.

“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,” Chris added. “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?”

When Rachel pointed out attending an “Old South” party isn’t “a good look,” the reality TV star replied, “You’re 100 percent right in 2021. 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.”

Shortly after the interview aired, Chris was hit with backlash from Bachelor Nation alumni and viewers alike. “My intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,” he apologized in an Instagram Story. “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.”

Rachael released her own statement apologizing for her past behavior. “I hear you, and I’m here to say I was wrong,” she wrote on Instagram. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. 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.”

Prior to news of Chris’ replacement, the You Deserve It alum revealed he was “stepping aside” as host. “I have spent the last few days listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful,” he wrote in a separate Instagram statement on February 13. 

“My ignorance did damage to friends, colleagues and strangers alike. I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke,” Chris continued. “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.”