Harrison removes himself after controversial interview
During the current season of “The Bachelor,” racially charged photos spread like wildfire through social media. People from Rachel Kirkconnell’s hometown spoke out, claiming that these accusations are true. On February 9 Rachel Lindsay conducted an interview on “Extra” where she brought then-host Chris Harrison on to speak about the racist actions, comments and posts of current “Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell. In the fourteen-minute interview, Harrison appeared to be defending the racist controversy surrounding Kirkconnell.
Lindsay, an African American woman, felt that no topics were off-limits, and made a point of speak about the most important issues that have arisen from Kirkconnell’s controversy. Specifically, she asked about Kirkconnell’s attendance of an Old South antebellum-themed fraternity party when she was a college student. Harrison responded to the topic almost instantly. “Is it [not] a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? . . . I’m not defending Rachael, I just know that 50 million people did that in 2018,” Harrison said.
Lindsay responded by pointing out the issues with Harrison’s defensive response towards the situation. “It’s not a good look ever. If I went to that party, who would I represent?” Lindsay asked. As Lindsay began pushing his answers to stray away from being defensive and compassionate of Kirkconnell, Harrison pushed back harder by speaking from his perspective. Each moment Lindsay tried to speak, Harrison would cut her off, talk over her and even speak at, not to, her.
Harrison continued to emphasize that Kirkconnell is a young woman who doesn’t deserve any of the backlash, bullying and cancel culture that has been thrown her way. He believed that, until she had a chance to publicly explain herself, society should allow her “grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her behalf” before deciding to cancel her.
Shortly after being released online, the interview spread quickly all over social media. Fans were outraged at Harrison’s words, and within the hour had created various petitions, demanding that Harrison be removed from the franchise immediately and permanently. While there are currently multiple petitions, one from Change.org contains nearly 50,000 signatures from people all around the world.
The following day, after receiving such an incredible amount of backlash from fans, Harrison released a statement to his Instagram, apologizing for his remarks in the interview with Lindsay.
“To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology. 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,” Harrison wrote.
Harrison also added that, while they have already shot the “Women Tell All” episode, he would be stepping away from the franchise for an unknown amount of time, leaving the producers to determine what would happen to the “After The Final Rose” episode set to premiere after the season finale. He also added that he did not want his actions to overshadow this historic season of “The Bachelor,” as Matt James is the first ever African American bachelor. On this note, he announced that ABC, Warner Bros. and himself have all agreed that Harrison will part ways with the show at this time.
Despite his apology, many fans are still extremely upset with his comments and refuse to believe that he will make an effort to educate himself. Rachel Lindsay is among them. The day after, she released an episode on her podcast “Higher Learning,” discussing a private conversation between herself and Harrison prior to his apology.
“When I finished that interview with Chris Harrison, he had no problems with it. He was fine . . . It wasn’t until people start talking, people start demanding and calling for different things that he does that. He then apologized to me, and then apologized publicly,” Lindsay said.
Many fans see Harrison’s apology as little more thana ploy to save his career after the tremendous amount of backlash. Petitions are still being signed, and the producers appear to be listening to their demands. On February 27, ABC announced that author and former NFL player Emmanuel Acho will be the new host for the “After The Final Rose” special premiering on March 8th.
Acho wrote a New York Times bestselling book in 2020 titled “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” which covers an array of important topics for those seeking answers and ways to mend the racial divide in our world. Aiming to work towards a world where reconciliation can be had, Acho understands the pressures and significance that lie uniquely within this episode, as mentioned on the Instagram post where he announced his hosting.
“It’s been a pivotal season, and this episode will hopefully be one of the most storied shows in TV history. Empathy is needed and change is coming. Share the news! I’ll see y’all then!” Acho wrote.
Although it is currently unknown whether Acho will be the permanent new host of the show, both fans and former alums are excited for the conversations he will have in the final episode. As someone who has no prior connection to the show, Acho may be exactly the person needed to facilitate conversations of change in a franchise where diversity is sorely lacking.
Author: Shyanne Mortimer|A&E Co-Editor