Chris Harrison apologizes for defending Rachael Kirkconnell in 'The Bachelor' racism scandal, says he's 'imperfect'
In February, Season 25 of ‘The Bachelor’ came under fire, especially Rachael Kirkconnell, a contestant and host Chris Harrison. Speaking with Michael Strahan for a pre-taped interview that will air on 'Good Morning America' on Thursday morning, March 4, Harrison acknowledged his error.
Kirkconnell found herself in hot water after photos emerged of the Georgia native allegedly attending an "Old South" Ball in an antebellum plantation dress. The photo sees her along with many other sorority girls in Antebellum-style dresses, and the image was considered problematic as the antebellum era is deeply associate with racism because it was the time of plantations, slavery and the civil war.
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The photos immediately went viral as the controversy gained steam with users of Twitter saying, "Photos have now emerged of Rachael Kirkconnell at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018 #TheBachelor #BachelorNation", followed by another tweet with photographs from the party, captioned: "Both Hannah Brown and Jessica Clarke (former Bachelor Ben Higgins’ fiancée) have been photographed at antebellum plantation-themed events—so far, all have been silent on this Chris Harrison/Rachael Kirkconnell racism scandal #TheBachelor."
Photos have now emerged of Rachael Kirkconnell at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018 #TheBachelor #BachelorNation pic.twitter.com/TEqmofRPKN— Rosé (@TeaAndRoses21) February 4, 2021
Both Hannah Brown and Jessica Clarke (former Bachelor Ben Higgins’ fiancée) have been photographed at antebellum plantation-themed events—so far, all have been silent on this Chris Harrison/Rachael Kirkconnell racism scandal #TheBachelor pic.twitter.com/poC2QTDW7R— Rosé (@TeaAndRoses21) February 12, 2021
This was questionable on its own but more so considering that this season of the reality show featured Matt James, its first Black lead. Later, Harrison defended Kirkconnell’s past actions in an interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay saying that Kirkconnell was “thrown to the lions”.
This was followed by a severe backlash, not just from fans but also from ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette’ contestants, both present and past. This included Tayshia Adams, Michelle Young, Brett Vergara, and more. In its aftermath, the veteran host stepped away from the ABC franchise. "It was a mistake," Harrison said in the preview for the episode. "I made a mistake. I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that."
.@chrisbharrison to @michaelstrahan: "I made a mistake."— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 3, 2021
See the exclusive interview TOMORROW on @GMA. https://t.co/wmtSZrBI99 pic.twitter.com/ALtcUbTmG1
But are people buying it?
Not particularly. Several people on social media did not think the apology was not a good one. Although, it has to be noted that the clip contains only a fraction of what Harrison has said. And no one, aside from the network, knows how the rest of the apology goes. One Twitter user said, “Everything he says always sounds so scripted. The only time it didn’t is when he was telling a Black woman how to feel about racism.”
Another Twitter user said, “This is pathetic. It's been weeks. I feel like i blinked and this man is already on our screens again. ATFR, the episode he stepped down from, hasn't even aired yet and they're already bringing him back, i can't.” Another Twitter user said, “Racism isn’t a ‘mistake’.”
Everything he says always sounds so scripted. The only time it didn’t is when he was telling a black woman how to feel about racism.— Sarah Elizabeth (@SarahBeth63827) March 3, 2021
Racism isn’t a “mistake”, clearly the mistake he thinks he made was getting caught— Morgan Kolb @🏡 😷 (@linamonbun) March 3, 2021
This is pathetic. It's been weeks. I feel like i blinked and this man is already on our screens again. ATFR, the episode he stepped down from, hasn't even aired yet and they're already bringing him back, i can't https://t.co/EVzXndrbIj— Terry 💖 (@sugarbunn10) March 3, 2021
No redemption tour! Chris Harrison spoke with his whole chest about his racism. He needs to work on himself. #FireChrisHarrison @ABC @bachnation @BachelorABC #TheBachelor https://t.co/eG0xYj8183— (((jlm))) (@JLMKC) March 3, 2021
In his defense of Kirkconnell, Harrison had argued: “Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021, because there’s a big difference. I don’t disagree with you. You’re 100 percent right in 2021. That was not the case in 2018. I’m not defending Rachael -- I just know that 50 million people who did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to,” adding, “My guess? These girls got dressed and went to a party and had a great time. They were 18 years old. Does that make it okay? I don’t know, Rachel, you tell me.”
Both Kirkconnell and Harrison have issued apologies for their actions. In her apology, Kirkconnell admitted her "ignorance was racist" and said, "I was wrong." She added that at the time, she "didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them."
Harrison wrote in his apology, “While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf. What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism and for that, I am so deeply sorry.” ABC and Warner Bros. TV have yet to announce if Harrison will return to the franchise to host ‘The Bachelorette’.