Chris Harrison is stepping aside from The Bachelor after a controversial interview with Extra. In the interview, Harrison defended current Bachelor contestant Rachel Kirkconnell, who reportedly attended a plantation-themed party in 2018. Harrison mentioned “the woke police” (among other things) and that Kirkconnell has been “thrown to the lions” for her actions. He later issued an apology saying he is “deeply remorseful” and that he will be “stepping aside for a period of time.” Here is everything you need to know about this latest Bachelor controversy.
Rachel Kirkconnell Gets Called Out For Racism
In January, photos emerged of current Bachelor contestant Rachel Kirkconnell at an “Old South” party she attended in college. The pictures showed Kirkconnell and other women in Antebellum-style dresses at a plantation-themed party hosted by Kappa Alpha fraternity. But it doesn’t stop there. A TikTok user accused Kirkconnell of bullying her in high school for dating Black men, while another accused her of liking racially-insensitive posts. Many people spoke out against Kirkconnell and the show for allowing such behavior—especially on a season that features The Bachelor’s first Black lead.
In an interview with ET, Bachelor lead Matt James responded to the 24-year-old contestant’s racially-insensitive actions. “Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people’s lives. So I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully she will have her time to speak on that.”
A week after the photos surfaced, Kirkconnell posted a written apology via her Instagram. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were but that doesn’t excuse them,” she wrote. Kirkconnell continued, “I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. I am sorry to communities and individuals my actions harmed and offended.”
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Still, Kirkconnell remains one of this season’s top contestants vying for James’ heart. James told the 24-year-old Georgia native he was falling in love with her on their first one-on-one date, and will be meeting her family in next week’s hometown dates.
Why Is Chris Harrison Stepping Aside?
So where does Chris Harrison come into all of this? Well, when Bachelor alum Rachel Lindsay interviewed Harrison on Extra, he defended Kirkconnell’s actions. Lindsay, the franchise’s first Black bachelorette, called the party Kirkconnell attended a celebration of the Old South. “It’s not a good look,” she said. Harrison countered, “Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?”
“It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay responded, asking the Bachelor host what she would have represented at the party if she attended.
In 2016, the Kappa Alpha Order released a statement saying chapters will no longer be able to use “Old South” as a name for their events. However, it is unclear if the change was solely for the name or the theme itself. But the statement did say that all chapters are “expected to comply.”
Harrison apologized via Instagram saying he is “deeply sorry” for his actions. “By excusing historical racism, I defended it,” said the host. He also announced he will be stepping aside from the show for an undetermined amount of time.
‘Bachelor’ Alums & Contestants Speak Out
In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Lindsay said she was “shocked” at Harrison’s comments. “It really was baffling in the moment. But I thought ‘if you’re going to say this, then folks need to hear it’.” Lindsay also talked about similar incidents that had occurred on the show. She said there was a racist contestant cast during her season. And in 2018, the Bachelorette picked someone who liked social media posts making fun of transgender people and immigrants.
Contestants from season 25 shared a message that expressed disappointment with the franchise’s lack of action. “We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism.” The message also showed support for Lindsay’s advocacy. “Rachel Lindsay continues to advocate with “grace” for those who identify as BIPOC within this franchise…We stand with her.”
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In June 2020, the executive producers of the franchise (including Harrison) issued a statement pledging to “expand diversity” in the relationships they show. So far, there have only been three Black leads in the franchise. Two in The Bachelorette’s 16 season history, and one in The Bachelor’s 25 seasons. According to an Instagram account called “Bachelor Data”, this season of The Bachelor has the highest cast of POC in the show’s history. However, the white contestants on the show got more overall screen time according to the data from the first six episodes.
How Long Will Chris Harrison Be Stepping Aside?
There is no word yet on when Harrison will be back, if at all. Most recently, a source revealed to The Sun that Bachelor producers are considering cutting Harrison’s screen time for the rest of the season. The source said that while it is impossible to cut Harrison out of the season entirely, his role will be reduced “as much as possible.” Harrison is featured heavily in the Women Tell All episode that airs on March 1st. Though some producers have suggested cancelling the special, the source said the network is “not going for that.”
The Bachelor airs Monday nights at 8pm ET on ABC.