August 13, 2018 09:23 AM

Chris Hardwick made an emotional return to the small screen on Sunday night.

Following the midseason premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, Hardwick, 46, returned to host AMC’s Talking Dead for the first time since allegations of emotional and sexual abuse were leveled against him by ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra.

Yvette Nicole Brown was originally slated to replace him as host, but the network reinstated Hardwick after completing an internal investigation into the allegations.

Hardwick teared up while opening the episode, saying, “I really just want to take a minute and I want to say that I’m so appreciative to be standing here right now,” according to Entertainment Weekly.

“And I want to thank you, The Walking Dead community, for all your support over these past couple months,” he said. “This show is not just a job to me, this is a vital part of my life, this has been a sanctuary these last seven years we’ve been here.”

Chris Hardwick
AMC

“This has been with me through good times and bad times, and I have so much gratitude to you the fans, the producers, and the casts of these amazing shows for allowing me to be a part of this community every week,” he continued. “This is what this is, a community, and we’re on the precipice of a lot of changes on both Walking Dead shows in the coming weeks and months, and I am so looking forward to going on that journey with you. And I’ve said the following words a million times, countless times, [and] I’ve never been more thankful than I am in this moment to say to you: I am Chris Hardwick and this is Talking Dead.”

In June, Dykstra, 29, wrote about her painful experience with sexual assault at the hands of a former boyfriend in an emotional first-person essay titled “Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession.” Though she didn’t name Hardwick as the subject, certain key details led many fans on Twitter to believe that she was referring to him. (They dated for three years before announcing their split in July 2014.)

Chris Hardwick and Chloe Dykstra
Michael Buckner/Getty Images for GQ

Hours after Dykstra’s claims went public, Hardwick issued a statement denying that he ever sexually assaulted her.

“I was heartbroken to read Chloe’s post,” he said. “Our three-year relationship was not perfect — we were ultimately not a good match and argues — even shouted at each other — but I loved her and did my best to uplift and support her as a partner and companion in any way and at no time did I sexually assault her.”

Hardwick’s wife Lydia Hearst and two former girlfriends, Andrea Savage and Jacinda Barrett, have all defended him against the allegations.

In late July, AMC announced Hardwick’s return.

“Following a comprehensive assessment by AMC, working with Ivy Kagan Bierman of the firm Loeb & Loeb, who has considerable experience in this area, Chris Hardwick will return to AMC as the host of Talking Dead and Talking with Chris Hardwick,” the network said in a statement obtained by EW. “We take these matters very seriously and given the information available to us after a very careful review, including interviews with numerous individuals, we believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step.”

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