Chris Harrison Speaks Out amid Racism Controversy, Says He Plans to Return to Bachelor Franchise
"I stand against all forms of racism ... I'm sorry to Rachel Lindsay and I'm sorry to the Black community," the longtime Bachelor franchise host said Thursday morning on GMA
Nearly three weeks after the longtime host announced that he would "be stepping aside" from the show for an unspecified period of time following his controversial discussion with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, Harrison sat down with Good Morning America for his first TV interview since the drama erupted.
"It was a mistake, I made a mistake," Harrison, 49, began on Thursday morning's episode. "I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake, and I own that."
For more on Chris Harrison's Good Morning America interview, listen below to the episode of PEOPLE Every Day.
Harrison came under fire for his Extra interview with Lindsay last month, in which he weighed in on current Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's resurfaced social media posts, which saw her dressed in Native American attire in costume and attending an antebellum plantation-themed college party in 2018. (Kirkconnell has since issued an apology and asked those defending her actions to "please stop.")
In the interview, Harrison questioned the "lens" of 2021 compared to 2018 and said people should have "a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion" in the wake of Kirkconnell's resurfaced photos.
Upon receiving backlash for appearing to defend Kirkconnell, Harrison first apologized on Feb. 10. A few days later, he apologized for a second time while also announcing that he would be "stepping aside" from the franchise for an unspecified amount of time, including that he would not appear in the After the Final Rose special.
"There is not [a difference between 2018 and 2021]. Antebellum parties are not okay, past, present, future. Knowing what that represents is unacceptable," Harrison told GMA co-host Michael Strahan before extending another apology to Lindsay and the Black community. "I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay. I didn't speak for my heart, that is to say I stand against all forms of racism ... I'm sorry to Rachel Lindsay and I'm sorry to the Black community."
Harrison then explained that he reached out to Lindsay to apologize following the Extra interview but had not talked to her since she deactivated her Instagram account due to harassment. Addressing those who have been harassing Lindsay online, he said: "To anyone who Is throwing hate at Rachel Lindsay please stop …I am not a victim here, I made a mistake and I own that. Racism, oppression, this is a dynamic problem and they take work and I am committed to that work."
The franchise host also revealed that he is working with "a race educator and strategist" and faith leaders and scholars like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
"Dr. Dyson often talks to me about counsel, not cancel. That is full accountability … owning from that, learning from that. Seeking council from the community that you hurt, gaining experience knowledge and moving forward," Harrison explained to Strahan, 49.
On Feb. 27, it was announced that Emmanuel Acho — who hosts the web series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man and authored a best-selling book by the same name — would be stepping in as host of After the Final Rose to discuss the outcome of The Bachelor season 25 starring Matt James, the franchise's first male Black lead. Acho will also speak with the final three women, Bri Springs, Michelle Young and Kirkconnell, during the special.
"It's both an honor and privilege to be hosting After the Final Rose. This is an incredibly pivotal episode on one of the most storied shows in television history," Acho, a former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker-turned sports analyst, said in a statement about the news of his casting.
Looking ahead, Harrison said at the end of his GMA interview, "I plan to be back and I want to be back" as the franchise's host, adding that he is "committed to progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise."
"This interview is not the finish line," he said. "There is much more work to be done. And I am excited to be a part of that change."
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Agreeing with Harrison that a lot more work needs to be done as the interview concluded, Strahan told his co-hosts, "His apology is his apology, but it felt like nothing more than a surface response on any of this."
"I mean, obviously, he's a man who clearly wants to stay on this show, but only time will tell if there is any meaning behind his words," he added.
The Bachelor: After the Final Rose will air on Monday, March 15 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC, immediately following the season finale of The Bachelor.