Chris Harrison, the longtime host of the Bachelor franchise, has apologized again for his comments excusing a current contestant's alleged racist past and said he wants to return as host after his leave of absence.
"I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that," he said in an interview with Michael Strahan on Good Morning America that aired Thursday. "I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to the progress not just for myself but also for the franchise.”
But Harrison's apology was "nothing more than a surface response on any of this," Strahan said after the interview. "Obviously he’s a man who wants to clearly stay on the show, but only time will tell if there’s any meaning behind his words."
This season, which has the first Black male lead in the franchise's nearly 20-year history, has been mired in controversy after photos surfaced of frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell attending an antebellum plantation–themed party. She also allegedly liked photos of people posing in front of a Confederate flag, among other accusations.
Harrison then defended Kirkconnell, who was the only white woman Bachelor Matt James chose for his final four, and dismissed criticism of her behavior. During an interview with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black female lead on the franchise, Harrison brushed aside the severity of Kirkconnell's actions and suggested that plantation-themed parties were acceptable in 2018.
Facing heavy backlash from some fans and several former contestants, he later apologized for his comments and announced that he would be "stepping aside for a period of time."
In his interview Thursday, the host walked back his defense of Kirkconnell, saying, "Antebellum parties are not OK — past, present, future. Knowing what that represents is unacceptable."
He also said that he wants to return to the franchise.
"I plan to be back and I want to be back," he said. "This interview is not the finish line, there is much more work to be done and I am excited to be a part of that change."
The racial controversy this season has overshadowed the significance of the first Black male lead in the franchise's overwhelmingly white history.
Lindsay, the former Bachelorette who challenged Harrison about his comments on Kirkconnell, has also been targeted with threats and hateful comments on Instagram. She recently deactivated her account.
Harrison apologized to Lindsay for what he said during their interview but told Strahan that he has not spoken to her since she left the social media platform.