Chris Harrison, the host and face of ABC’s The Bachelor franchise, is under fire following racist comments he made regarding a contestant on this season of The Bachelor.
Harrison, who has hosted the show and its spinoffs since the start of the franchise, was in an interview with the show’s first black bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, on ExtraTV on Feb. 9.
In the interview, Lindsay asked Harrison about his opinion regarding racist allegations that were brought up surrounding a contestant on this year’s season of The Bachelor, Rachael Kirkconnell. Since her appearance on the show, photos have surfaced of Kirkconnell attending an antebellum-plantation-themed ball hosted by a fraternity who embraces Confederate General Robert. E. Lee as its “spiritual leader.”
The fraternity, Kappa Alpha at Georgia College and State University, throws their annual ball during what they call “Old South Week.” This week celebrates the confederacy and was previously held on southern plantations.
Harrison comes to the defense of Kirkconnell, stating the photos are old and that they do not speak for Kirkconnell’s character.
Lindsay tells Harrison that the photos are not a good look, to which Harrison asked, “Is it [not] a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021?” as if the times were different. However, these photos were taken less than three years ago, and Kirkconnell has also since liked photos of her friends with Confederate flags in the background.
Following the drama between Harrison and Lindsay, Kirkconnell issued an apology on her social media, but only after being pestered for weeks by fans of the show.
“I think Rachael’s [prolonged] silence speaks volumes, and Chris defending her was pretty disappointing because he didn’t have to defend her to this extent,” said Sarah Sheathelm (‘22).
Fans of The Bachelor franchise quickly came out to ridicule Harrison for telling people to show Kirkconnell “a little grace, understanding and compassion” despite her past. Rather than condemning her actions, Harrison made Kirkconnell seem like a victom of a cyberbullying.
Harrison also spoke over Lindsay throughout the entirety of the interview. She alleged that he didn’t listen to what she had to say—he only cared about what he wanted to say next.
On Feb. 10, Harrison released what fans called a cop-out of an apology where he promised to do better and apologized to Lindsay for, “not listening to her better on a topic she has firsthand understanding of.”
As someone who reportedly has an annual salary of $8 million, Harrison has every resource to learn about equity and how to respond to situations such as this one. He has been the host and face of The Bachelor franchise since 2002, which means the things he says and does directly represent the show, even if it is unintentional.
Some people have been praising the franchise for including more BIPOC leads and contestants, but to many, this seems like the bare minimum. As mentioned previously, the first Black lead was Lindsay, and that did not come until 15 years after the start of the franchise.
This season of The Bachelor had the most diverse cast in the show’s history. The lead, Matt James, was the franchise’s first Black bachelor, and 25 women who identify as BIPOC were contestants.
However, this is not enough when the rich, white man who hosts the show spews off his ignorance, then tries to issue a disingenuous apology to save his career.
“I kinda feel like he’s hiding from it instead of admitting what he did was wrong, which is disappointing,” said Sheathelm.
Ultimately, on Feb. 13, Harrison posted on his Instagram that he would be taking some time away from the show and would not be appearing on a segment of the show that airs after the finale, titled After the Final Rose. Harrison said he will use the time away to educate himself more about the weight his words can have.
It is uncertain whether or not Harrison will return as the host for future seasons, and many fans think it is time for the franchise to find a more diverse host who could add much more to the show.
“He’s been such an icon to Bachelor Nation for so long but he really trashed his reputation,” said Sheathelm.
“He let down a lot of people and offended even more.”
Only time will tell what’s in store for the franchise, but here is to hoping for some positive, more diverse change.