Chris Harrison is speaking out for the first time since stepping down from “The Bachelor,” which he has hosted for nearly two decades since its 2002 debut.
During an interview with “Good Morning America”co-anchor Michael Strahan, Harrison admitted it was “a mistake” to defend current “Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racially insensitive behavior.
“I made a mistake,” Harrison said during a sneak peek of the interview, which airs in full on ABC Thursday morning. “I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that.”
Kirkconnell is one of the finalists on the current season of “The Bachelor,” which stars the franchise’s first male Black lead, Matt James. However, Kirkconnell has come under fire for liking Confederate flag-related TikToks and, more recently, for a resurfaced photo that appears to show her attending a plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018.
Harrison faced widespread backlash for defending Kirkconnell from the “woke police” during a Feb. 9 interview with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black lead on “The Bachelorette.” The reality host repeatedly talked over Lindsay and suggested Kirkconnell was a victim.
“We all need to have a little grace… Because I’ve seen some stuff online, again this judge-jury-executioner thing, where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart,” Harrison said during the interview. “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.”
Harrison continued: “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.”
Rachel Lindsaydisables Instagram after ‘rude, hateful’ backlash from ‘Bachelor’ fans
More:Rachel Lindsay ‘cant do it anymore,’ won’t renew ‘Bachelor’ contract
Harrison apologized on his Instagram account Feb. 10 for “wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.” He apologized again on Feb. 13for “excusing historical racism” and announced that he will take some time away from the franchise. “The historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions,” Harrison wrote. “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.”
Emmanuel Achoto replace ‘Bachelor’ host Chris Harrison for show’s ‘After the Final Rose’ special
On Feb. 11, Kirkconnell apologized for her “offensive and racist” actions. She spoke out further on Feb. 25, saying “sitting aside and hiding in the corner” doesn’t “help anyone.”
“This entire movement and where we are in this country, it’s just so much bigger than this, and I want and need to use my privilege and my platform that I so do not deserve just to shine a light on these issues and try to do what I can to take a step in the right direction,” she said in an Instagram video.
James spoke out for the first time on Instagram Feb. 22, calling the ABC franchise’s latest racism controversy “devastating” and “a clear reflection of a much larger issue.”
He said viewers will “hear more from me” on the matter after he’s had more time to “process this experience.” He added, “My greatest prayer is that this is an inflection point that results in real and institutional change for the better.”
James’ final three include Kirkconnell, Bri Springs and Michelle Young.
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, Elise Brisco
‘Bachelor’ Matt James breaks silence, calls latest racism controversy a ‘much larger issue’