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Chris Harrison Says He Plans to Return to ‘The Bachelor’ in 1st Interview Since Rachael Kirkconnell Controversy

Speaking out. Chris Harrison gave his first interview after temporarily stepping back from The Bachelor franchise amid the controversy surrounding his defense of season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell.

Related: Bachelor Nation Reacts to Chris Harrison Stepping Down After Controversial Interview

“I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake and I own that,” the 49-year-old host said on Good Morning America on Thursday, March 4. “I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise. And this is a franchise that has been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years and I love it.”

Chris Harrison in 1st Interview Since Rachael Kirkconnell Controversy
Chris Harrison and Rachael Kirkconnell. Mediapunch/Shutterstock; Courtesy of Rachael Kirkconnell/Instagram

Harrison came under fire last month while discussing Kirkconnell, 24, during interview with Rachel Lindsay for Extra. Things got tense when Harrison asked for “grace” and “understanding” for Matt James’ contestant, who was accused of being racist in high school and “liking” racially insensitive Instagram posts. The Georgia native also faced backlash for attending an “Old South”-themed party on a planation in 2018.

“I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay. I can’t believe I didn’t speak against antebellum parties, what they stand for,” Harrison said on Thursday. “I didn’t say it then and I want to say it now: those parties are not OK, past, present, future. And I didn’t speak from my heart. And that is to say that I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry to Rachel Lindsay and to the Black community.”

Related: A Timeline of Chris Harrison and Rachel Lindsay's Interview — and the Fallout

During his interview with Lindsay, the Perfect Letter author noted that the pictures of Kirkconnell were not a “good look,” but then asked Lindsay, “Is it [not] a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? … My guess? These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time, they were 18 years old. Now, does that make it OK? I don’t know Rachel, you tell me. Were we all looking through [that lens] in 2018?”

On GMA, Harrison, clarified: “Antebellum parties are not OK. Past, present, future, knowing what that represents is unacceptable.”

In addition to noting he’s seeking “counsel,” the host asked fans to stop “throwing hate” toward Lindsay, who has disabled her Instagram account amid the backlash.

“I sought out leading scholars, teachers, faith leaders, people like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who I am so grateful for, and I’ve also been working closely with a race educator and strategist. I thank them all,” he said. “But Dr. Dyson often talks to me about council. Not cancel, and that is full accountability, understanding what you didn’t understand, owning that, learning from that, seeking counsel often in the community that you hurt, learning from them, listening, gaining experience, knowledge and moving forward. … To anyone who is throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay, please stop It’s unacceptable.”

Related: Rachael Kirkconnell: A Guide to the Controversial Contestant’s Family

Harrison concluded: “I plan to be back and I want to be back. And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change. I know that change is felt, not just by me, but by many others. And we are excited and willing to do the work to show that progress. 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.”

Harrison also apologized to fans and Lindsay after the interview first made headlines. Kirkconnell has also apologized twice.

“I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended,” the graphic designer wrote on February 11 via Instagram. “I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me. I am learning and will continue to learn how to be antiracist, because it’s important to speak up in the moment and not after you’re called out. If you are a person who doesn’t understand the offense in question, I urge you to learn from my mistakes and encourage you to use them as a teachable moment.”

ABC announced on February 27 that author and activist Emmanuel Acho was set to host The Bachelor: After the Final Rose in Harrison’s absence. Acho will talk to James and his final three — Kirkconnell, Michelle Young and Bri Springs — at the special on Monday, March 15.

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