Coming off of serious social media and industry pushback that also saw members of the popular ABC reality show franchise issue public statements, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette host Chris Harrison is stepping aside after a controversial interview with former The Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsay where Harrison appeared to be defending Rachael Kirkconnell, who is the middle of a racism controversy. Kirkconnell is a contestant during the current season of The Bachelor with Matt James as this season's bachelor- the show's first Black male lead in its history.
Revealing that he would be stepping aside "for a period of time" in an Instagram post on Saturday, Harrison wrote, '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 Bros. and ABC and will be stepping aside for a period of time and will not join for the 'After the Final Rose' special. I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before. I want to ensure our cast and crew members, to my friends, colleagues and our fans: this is not just a moment, but a commitment to much greater understanding that I will actively make every day." Here's a look at the full Instagram post:
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Speaking with Lindsay during an Extra interview, the topic of the controversy surrounding Kirkconnell came up. After the current season of The Bachelor premiered, the contestant's past social media history came into question (liking posts with confederate flags in them, sharing QAnon conspiracies, etc.). Matters got worse for Kirkconnell when images surfaced on Reddit of her attending an "Old South" plantation-themed college party in 2018. Kirkconnell confirmed ownership of the online activity in a posted apology and followed that up with a joint statement from her fellow cast members (as well as James) denouncing any defense of racism whatsoever.
During the interview that took place before Kirkconnell issued her apology, Lindsay asked Harrison why neither the production nor Kirkconnell had addressed the issue publically (up to that point). After a back and forth on the matter, Harrison seemed to imply Kirkconnell shouldn't have her 2018 life viewed through a 2021 lens- saying, "Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference," he asked, in reference to the "Old South" images. "Where is this lens we're holding up and was this lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018," he continued. The interview was not received well by either the show's fanbase or those within the franchise, prompting Harrison to release a statement apologizing for "wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism."