The host of The Bachelor has spoken out for the first time since leaving the show during a racism scandal, and admitted that he ‘made a mistake’ in defending one of the contestants.
Chris Harrison, 49, abruptly departed the show mid-season on February 13.
Four days earlier he had defended one of the contestants, Rachael Kirkconnell, 24, for attending an ‘Old South’ plantation-themed party in 2018.
Harrison tried to claim that the three-year-old photo should be seen in the context of the time.
Chris Harrison told Good Morning America, in an episode airing Thursday, he ‘made a mistake’
Host Michael Strahan asks Harrison, 49, why he defended Rachel Kirkconnell for her photo
Photos surfaced of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell at a plantation-themed party in 2018 as well as a history of liking photos with the Confederate flag
On Wednesday Harrison spoke to Good Morning America’s host Michael Strahan, for an interview that will air on Thursday.
Strahan asked why Harrison defended Kirkocnnell.
‘It was a mistake,’ Harrison said.
‘I made a mistake. I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that.’
The season concludes on March 15, with author and TV personality Emmanuel Acho as the replacement host.
Kirkconnell is one of three women remaining on the show, competing to win the heart of Matt James – the show’s first black Bachelor.
Pictured: Contestant Rachael Kirkconnell on Matt James’s season of The Bachelor
She was also accused of having ‘liked’ photos with Confederate images, and QAnon posts.
Harrison’s problems began when, on February 9, he was asked by former Bachelorette star Rachel Lindsey on Extra about Kirkconnell’s photos.
Lindsay was Bachelorette’s first black contestant.
Harrison called for ‘a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion’ for Kirkconnell, adding that he thought it was ‘unbelievably alarming’ to watch because ‘people are just tearing this girl’s life apart.’
‘The woke police is out there. And this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions, I don’t know how you are equipped when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this,’ he said.
Harrison implied that Kirkconnell was a victim of ‘cancel culture’.
During an interview, with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay (above), Harrison defended the actions of current Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who attended a plantation-themed ball, and said people show show ‘compassion’
Lindsay told him: ‘Well, the picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party – that’s not a good look.’
Harrison replied: ‘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 because she’s celebrating the Old South,’ Lindsay replied. ‘If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?’
As anger at Harrison’s attitude spread, he apologized on social media.
On February 10, he apologized for ‘not listening’ to Lindsay during the interview and for ‘speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.’
In the most recent apology, shared on February 13, he acknowledged his ‘ignorance.’
Harrison issued an apology on Saturday saying he is ‘ashamed’ of the ‘pain’ he has caused to people of color and that he is committed to ‘evolve and be a better man’
‘I have spent the last few days listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful,’ Harrison wrote. ‘My ignorance did damage to my friends, colleagues and strangers alike. 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 in my being.
‘To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry,’ he added.
‘My words were harmful. I am listening, and I truly apologize for my ignorance and pain it caused you.’
In the same post, Harrison announced he would be ‘stepping aside for a period of time’ from the show.
James said that the controversy – ‘including the incredibly disappointing photos of Rachael Kirkconnell and the interview between Rachel Lindsay and Chris Harrison’ – has been ‘devastating and heartbreaking, to put it bluntly.’
Kirkconnell has repeatedly apologized.
In an Instagram video on Thursday, Kirkconnell responded to the controversy, which includes photos of her attending the antebellum-themed college party, plus allegedly liking and sharing social media posts with the Confederate flag and Qanon conspiracies.
She had previously posted a written statement earlier this month.
At the start of the seven-and-a-half minute video, Kirkconnell said: ‘the first big step in all of this is White people stepping up and taking accountability. Things will never change if we don’t all work together in working towards this racial progress and this unity that we want.’
Kirkconnell went on to emphasize the importance of having uncomfortable conversations and putting in the work to ‘unlearn’ racism.
‘The learning never stops. We all need to continue to educate ourselves,’ she said, pointing viewers to antiracism resources in her Instagram Story and bio. She included articles titled, ‘How I confronted the truth about my fraternity’s racist history’ and ‘Why your native-inspired Halloween costume devalues our Indigenous cultures.’
Kirkconnell concluded the video by telling her followers that they should not be defending or excusing her past behavior.
‘Please stop. That’s not our place to tell people what they can and can’t be offended about,’ she said.
‘That’s wrong and that’s part of the problem, so please stop saying that I did nothing wrong. That’s not true.
‘If you really want to support me, then encourage me to do better and encourage those around you to do better to accept change and allow others to learn and grow because we need to work together on this if anything is going to change.’