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Chris Harrison Is Temporarily Leaving "The Bachelor" After His Remarks About A Contestant's Alleged Racist Past

Harrison announced the move on social media after being criticized for how he handled questions about contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's alleged racist past.

Last updated on February 14, 2021, at 12:53 p.m. ET

Posted on February 13, 2021, at 3:57 p.m. ET

Chris Harrison standing in the woods wearing a winter coat, blue scarf, leather gloves
Craig Sjodin / Getty Images

Chris Harrison said that he is temporarily "stepping aside" from his role as host of The Bachelor franchise amid backlash over the controversy about a current contestant's past social media posts.

In a pair of Instagram posts shared Saturday, Harrison said that he is "stepping aside for a period of time" and will not appear on the "After the Final Rose" special.

He said that he was "remorseful" and "ashamed" about comments he made in a recent interview when asked about Rachael Kirkconnell, a frontrunner on the 25th season of The Bachelor, which stars the franchise's first Black bachelor.

Craig Sjodin / Getty Images

Matt James, the franchise's first Black bachelor, and Chris Harrison

According to Variety, Kirkconnell was seen in pictures that allegedly show her at an antebellum plantation–themed fraternity party. She has also been accused of liking photos that contain Confederate flags on social media.

Harrison was asked about Kirkconnell's alleged behavior in an interview with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette lead, on Extra, and specifically about the plantation-themed party in 2018 that Kirkconnell allegedly attended.

Harrison appeared to defend Kirkconnell, saying, "These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time and they were 18 years old."

He continued, "We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion because I've seen some stuff online — again, this 'judge, jury, executioner' thing — where people are just tearing this girl's life apart and diving into her parents and her parents' voting record. It's unbelievably alarming to watch this."

He later said that he was "not defending Rachael" but added, "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."

The interview led to widespread backlash among Bachelor fans, and Harrison apologized for his remarks Wednesday.

"To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology," he said.

In his post Saturday, Harrison said that his "ignorance did damage."

"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," the post says.

Harrison will appear in the remaining episodes of this season, which was filmed in 2020, and he'll also appear in the "Women Tell All" episode, which was filmed earlier this month. The "After the Final Rose" special hasn't been shot yet.

Kirkconnell released her own apology Thursday. Although she didn't confirm or deny the photos or her alleged social media activity, she said that "truths have come to light that I need to address."

"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."

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