It’s official: Chris Harrison is “stepping aside” from The Bachelor franchise. The host himself made the announcement in a lengthy Instagram post on Feb 13, after Chris made headlines for a Feb. 9 interview he did with former contestant, Rachel Lindsay, on Extra. “I have spent the last few days listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful. My ignorance did damage to my friends, colleagues and strangers alike,” he began, confirming at the end of his statement he would be away from the show “for a period time.” HollywoodLife has also reached out to ABC for comment.
“I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke…I set standards for myself, and have to meet them. I feel that with every fiber of my being,” the 49-year-old penned. “Now just as I taught my children to stand up, and to own their actions, I will do the same. By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term ‘woke police,’ which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong,” he explained.
“To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry. My words were harmful. I am listening, and I truly apologize for my ignorance and any pain it caused you,” Chris also wrote in his emotional letter, going on to thank those who he is learning from. “I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the people from these communities who I’ve had enlightening conversations with over the past few days, and I am so grateful to those who have reached out to help me on my path to anti-racism.”
He then addressed the current season of the show. “The historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions. 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,” he went on. “I want to ensure our cast and crew members, to my friends, colleagues and our fans: this is not just a moment, but a commitment to much greater understanding that I will actively make every day,” he added. “From here I can only try to evolve and be a better man, and I humble myself before all of you. I hope I will again live up to the expectations you all rightfully have for me and the expectations I have for myself,” Chris concluded his statement.
Chris’ girlfriend, Entertainment Tonight host Lauren Zima, has also spoken out.“What Chris said was wrong and disappointing,” the 33-year-old wrote via Instagram Story post on Saturday. “Defending racism can never happen. Accountability comes first, what’s next is learning and growth,” she added.
During the Extra interview, Chris discussed season 25 Bachelor contestant, Racahel Kirkconnell, and the controversy regarding photos of her attending an Old South-themed party in college. The photos blew up on social media, with fans pointing out how problematic it was for Rachael to glorify a time in American history where blatant racism was so prevalent. However, Chris didn’t seem to see the issue, and tried to minimize the problem. “I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago, that’s it,” he told Rachel L. “My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time. They were 18 years old. Now, does that make it okay? I don’t know, Rachel, you tell me. We were all looking through [that lens] in 2018?”
After the interview aired, Chris received an outpouring of backlash on social media, and it wasn’t until the controversy blew up that he publicly apologized. However, it was too little too late. Other members of Bachelor Nation began publicly denouncing Chris, and it eventually led to his exit from the franchise after 19 years.
Chris has been with Bachelor Nation from the beginning. It all started with The Bachelor in 2002, followed by a spin-off, The Bachelorette, which premiered in 2003. From 2010 until 2012, Chris hosted the short-lived spin-off Bachelor Pad, followed by Bachelor in Paradise, which first premiered in 2014. Other spin-offs included The Bachelor Winter Games and The Bachelor Presents: Listen To Your Heart.
In addition to serving as host of all of these shows, Chris was also at the forefront of Bachelor Nation specials and reunion shows. He developed close relationships with many of the show’s stars over the years. However, many alum of the show made it clear that they were not happy with the statements that Chris made in his Extra interview, and they didn’t shy away from calling him out on it.
The women of color on Rachael K.’s season of The Bachelor even teamed up to release a statement in support of Rachel Lindsay, and slammed Chris for defending Rachael K.’s past racist behavior. “We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism,” they said. “Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized.” See the full statement above.
Meanwhile, Rachael K. issued an apology for her behavior, where she took accountability for her actions. “At one point, I did not recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them,” she wrote. “My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
In addition to years of hosting in the Bachelor Nation franchise, Chris also met his now-girlfriend, Lauren Zima, thanks to the series. Lauren, a reporter for Entertainment Tonight, covered The Bachelor and its spinoffs for work. Chris appeared on various ET segments over the years, and the two eventually fell in love. He was previously married to his college sweetheart, Gwen, who he shares two kids with.