In an explosive development for the world of reality TV, ABC has announced that Chris Harrison will be leaving his role as host of The Bachelor/Bachelorette dating reality series after nearly two decades. His departure follows an incident in February 2021 when Harrison attempted to defend a contestant’s racist past behavior.
Wilson Wong and Diana Dasrath of NBC News have reported that Harrison “stepped aside from his role in February after he defended former Bachelor contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, who was shown in photos attending an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018.”
Wong and Dasrath added that Harrison made the offensive comments defending Kirkconnell during a TV interview on Extra with Rachel Lindsay, a Black former contestant on the dating reality show.
“In his interview with Lindsay, Harrison expressed sympathy for Kirkconnell and implied that the criticism directed against her was unfair because the photos were from the past,” Wong and Dasrath reported. “When Lindsay said it was not a good look that Kirkconnell attended a party celebrating the antebellum South — a time period when slavery was present — Harrison said: ‘Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018? Or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.’”
“It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay replied. “If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”
In a Good Morning America interview following the incident, Harrison admitted that he had “made a mistake,” telling the show’s co-host Michael Strahan, “I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake, and I own that. 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.”
In their announcement of Harrison’s departure from the series, ABC said, “Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of The Bachelor franchise. We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey.”
For his part, Harrison has said he is working with a “race educator” to try to learn from his experience and move forward. He also said he is looking forward to a new chapter of his life following an “incredible run” on the series.
“I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together,” Harrison said. “While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime.”
The Bachelor series remains a perennial juggernaut for ABC and is one of the network’s best-performing series. Since premiering in 2002, there have been 25 seasons of The Bachelor and 17 seasons of its spin-off, The Bachelorette. The most recent premiered earlier this month, with two former contestants taking over Harrison’s hosting duties.