Chris Harrison is taking a break from The Bachelor series in the wake of racist controversy.
The host announced the decision on social media Saturday, just days after he seemingly defended Rachael Kirkconnell, a current contestant who has been accused of racist actions.
“This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions,” the longtime host and producer wrote. “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.”
It’s unclear when Harrison will resume his hosting duties.
The controversy began earlier this week during Harrison’s interview with Extra’s Rachel Lindsay, a former contestant and the first-ever Black Bachelorette. The two discussed newly surfaced photos that appear to show Kirkconnell attending an antebellum plantation-themed party in 2018. She has also been accused of wearing an offensive Native American costume during another event and liking social media posts with Confederate flags. Kirkconnell is competing to win over the heart of Matt James, who just so happens to be The Bachelor’s first-ever Black frontrunner.
Harrison specifically addressed the party photos and seemed to take aim at cancel culture.
“We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion,” Harrison said to Lindsay. “Because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing — where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents, her parents’ voting record. 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?”
Lindsay explained that the photos were not a good look—not in 2018, not now, not ever. Harrison partly disagreed, insisting that there were probably many others who attended similar parties with no bad intentions.
“You’re 100 percent right in 2021,” Harrison continued. “That was not the case in 2018. And again, 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. And again, I’m not defending it. I didn’t go to it.”
Following the interview, Lindsay announced she would not renew her contract with The Bachelor franchise. Kirkconnell has also released a statement, apologizing for her past.
“I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist,” she wrote. “I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended. I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me.”