Chris Harrison is “stepping down” from The Bachelor after almost 20 years as host. The announcement arrived via an Instagram post (but not a Twitter post) on the morning of Saturday, February 13, after a week of racism controversies in Bachelor Nation. Harrison put himself in the center of the storm after one headline-making, offensive Extra interview with former lawyer/first Black Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay that published February 10. Harrison apologized for the comments he made during the interview the following day, February 11.
In the middle of the first Black Bachelor’s search for love, Harrison’s statement couldn’t have come quicker.
Harrison’s decision to step down is laid out via two cards in an Instagram gallery post. In the second one, which is not the one that can be seen in grid view, the Bachelor host announces the specifics of his time away. “This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions,” Harrison began, referring to Matt James’ season. “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 the ‘After the Final Rose’ special.”
It is unclear how long Harrison’s “period of time” away from Bachelor Nation series — like The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise — will be, who will host the 2021 “After the Final Rose” special (which should air next month), or whether this means other shows under the Bachelor umbrella will require a new host for 2021 or beyond. Over the last few weeks, it was rumored that the 2021 Bachelorette would film in Canada; that story has since been walked back. Refinery29 has reached out to ABC for comment on Harrison’s announcement and its meaning for the future of Bachelor properties.
In the rest of Harrison’s statement, he grapples with the massive amount of “pain” his Extra interview caused Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants, Rachael Lindsay herself, and viewers of all backgrounds (especially those in BIPOC communities). During the Extra conversation, Harrison blames the “woke police” for investigating a Bachelor frontrunner’s background while dating the series' first Black lead, extensively defends said frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell for attending a pro-plantation “party” in 2018 (she apologized on February 12), and questions whether we should remove statues glorifying racists, among many other upsetting assertions. His comments led to union-esque statements denouncing such viewpoints from the most recent casts of The Bachelor and Bachelorette, along with a Change.org petition calling for Harrison’s removal as Bachelor Nation host. The petition has over 38,000 signatures as of publication.
“By excusing historical racism, I defended it … I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong,” Harrison wrote. “To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am sorry. My words were harmful. I am listening, and I truly apologize for my ignorance and any pain it caused you.”
The need for Harrison to “step aside” during this time, really does come down to that — “ignorance” and “pain.” The twenty-fifth season of The Bachelor is meant to be a historic breath of fresh air with James in the lead — the beginning of a newer, better chapter for Bachelor Nation. Instead, the show has been dominated by multiple racism controversies in the last week, for a Bachelor season that has already been overcome by disturbing, subtly racist and vocally slut-shaming attacks. While viewers can tell you everything about Victoria Larson’s many schemes or Anna Redman’s campaign to label Brittany Galvin “an escort,” it’s unlikely they know a fraction of as much information about James’ romantic history. It is unclear how he has approached his love life as an adult, the nitty-gritty of his past relationships, or even the way James looks at dating as a biracial man raised solely by a white mom. These are the topics that connect viewers to a Bachelor — not Victoria Larson’s pre-rose ceremony antics.
The Bachelor doesn’t need any more racist distractions. Not from its host. And definitely not during Black History Month.