Chris Harrison’s Racism Controversy: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Chris Harrison

Getty Images Chris Harrison stepped away as host of "The Bachelor" after a controversial interview with Rachel Lindsay on ExtraTV.

Chris Harrison is the longtime host of The Bachelor who stepped down from that role on February 13, 2021. The decision came after fans criticized Harrison over an interview with Rachel Lindsay on ExtraTV in which they discussed accusations of racism against frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell.

Harrison started his journey on The Bachelor franchise back in 2002. The next year, he was asked to host the very first season of The Bachelorette, and since then Harrison’s name has been synonymous with the franchise.

Over the course of his career, Harrison has landed several other hosting gigs, including a 2019 stint on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, according to his IMDb page. In addition, he’s hosted the Miss America pageant seven times since 2004. Over the past several years, Harrison has even landed a few acting roles, thanks to the high profile afforded to him based on his tenure in the industry.

Following Harrison’s interview on ExtraTV, many fans have called for him to be fired by ABC. The network — and specifically those directly associated with the show — have yet to comment on the controversy surrounding Harrison.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Harrison Was Widely Criticized Following His Interview With Lindsay Last Month

Chris Harrison & Rachel Lindsay Talk ‘Bachelor’ Contestant Rachael Kirkconnell“The Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell made headlines after photos emerged of her at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018. There are also allegations that she had liked racist social media posts and more. “Extra’s” Rachel Lindsay caught up with Chris Harrison to get his thoughts on the matter.2021-02-10T01:41:15Z

Harrison sat down for a virtual chat with Lindsay on ExtraTV on February 9. While the two were expected to chat about Matt James’ season of The Bachelor, Lindsay brought up the controversy surrounding photos of Kirkconnell at an “Old South” formal from 2018 that circulated online in early February.

“First and foremost, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to Rachael about it. And this is again where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion because I have seen some stuff online, again, this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart. … It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet, and until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this? I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that’s it, like, boom, like okay this girl is in this book now and she’s now in this group, and I’m like, ‘Really?'” Harrison said to Lindsay. You can watch the interview in the video above.

The two debated the situation, and much of what Harrison said was widely criticized.

Harrison suggested that 2021 is a different climate than 2018, stating there was a “big difference” between when the photos were taken and the current year.

“You’re 100% right in 2021. That was not the case in 2018. And you know 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 said. “We are not looking under the same lens,” he added.

Lindsay admitted that she was frustrated that Kirkconnell hadn’t spoken out about the photos at the time. Harrison defended Kirkconnell, saying he thought she “needs a little time.” Lindsay was quick to point out that it had been six weeks since the photos were originally posted.

The interview went viral soon after it was posted online. Fans were quick to slam Harrison, many taking to Reddit to voice their opinions, with several calling for Harrison to lose his job as the Bachelor franchise host.

2. Harrison Issued a Public Apology via Instagram

Just one day after his interview with Lindsay went viral, Harrison took to Instagram to post an apology to the people he had offended.

“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,” Harrison’s Instagram post read.

“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. I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better,” he added.

Lindsay responded to the apology on her “Higher Learning” podcast.

Lindsay said that Harrison reached out to her directly and apologized before he posted his statement on Instagram. She also explained that Harrison didn’t apologize until there was such incredible backlash. She also said that Harrison “talked over” her.

“During that whole conversation, he had the audacity to question me. During that conversation, he talked over me and at me. During that conversation, his privilege was on display. He never gave me room to talk. And he never gave me room to share my perspective. He wasn’t trying to hear it. He was just trying to be heard,” she said, adding that Harrison “expressed everything that he said with passion and conviction.”

3. Harrison Announced That He Made the Decision to Step Aside, but It’s Unclear if He Will Return to His Hosting Duties

Three days after posting his apology on Instagram, Harrison posted another update to his fans stating that he had decided to step away from his role as Bachelor host.

“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,” he wrote. Harrison did not state the length of his time away, though a “period of time” suggests he will be back at some point.

Harrison has not returned to social media since he posted this announcement on February 13.

Since that time, many Bachelor Nation members have spoken out about Harrison. Without naming him, 25 of this season’s contestants “who identify as BIPOC” released a united statement “to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism.”

Many — like former Bachelorette contestant Mike Johnson — believe Harrison should be replaced.

“Let me speak direct — should the individual be removed from The Bachelor franchise? I think it’s time for that. Should that individual be removed completely? No, because I think that individual has such a beautiful platform, it’s such a beautiful privilege that we have to use it for good,” Johnson told Lindsay in an ExtraTV interview of his own.

While ABC executives have yet to speak out about Harrison’s future with the franchise, Reality Steve believes someone will need to address the controversy in order to move forward.

“They need to have an exec come out publicly and give a detailed explanation as to HOW they are going to change going forward,” Reality Steve wrote in his blog.

4. A Petition for Harrison to Be Fired Has Garnered More Than 42,000 Signatures

Shortly after Harrison’s interview with Lindsay aired, an online petition was created that called for him to be fired from the franchise. According to notes posted on the petition, 25,000 signatures had been collected in its first 48 hours. As of the time of publishing, more than 42,000 people had signed their names.

“Chris Harrison refuses to take any accountability for the continual casting of racist, misogynistic & homophobic contestants. He refuses to take accountability for the emotional damage & trauma caused to POC on the show. As a host he is directly responsible for some of the content that airs. This show has ruined men and women’s reputations and negativity impacted many contestants long term mental health,” one person who signed the petition commented.

“We have to hold racist people accountable. Chris Harrison is no exception. He used his position of power and platform to perpetuate and reinforce racism and white supremacy,” added a second.

“Excusing racist behavior is never ok. He must be held accountable,” echoed a third.

A counter-petition asking that Harrison remain host had more than 14,000 signatures at the time of publishing.

“Chris Harrison, did nothing wrong. He was asked his opinion and gave it, which was basically to give Rachel Kirkconnell time to speak for herself. There is nothing wrong with that. He, in my opinion was set up by Rachel Lindsey, who has a long history of causing controversy,” reads one comment.

“Chris is the reason I watch the show!!!” wrote another.

“He is the face of the Bachelor franchise. The show has become too political. There is no Bachelor without Chris,” added a third.

5. Emmanuel Acho Will Host ‘After the Final Rose’

On February 28, Emmanuel Acho revealed that he’d inked a deal with ABC to take over hosting duties for the After the Final Rose special.

“IT’S OFFICIAL: I’ve accepted the Rose and am honored to be hosting the @bachelorabc After the Final Rose this year. 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,” he captioned an Instagram post.

In a post uploaded to Instagram on Monday, March 1, Acho expressed just how excited he is to join Bachelor Nation.

“Y’all, I’ve never been more excited about an opportunity in my life! Bachelor Nation, please welcome me with open arms,” he wrote.

It’s unclear if Acho will be asked to host The Bachelorette or whether his gig with the franchise will only last for the one special episode.

READ NEXT: Here’s Why You May Not See Chris Harrison on the Rest of ‘The Bachelor’

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