Chris Harrison Apologizes for 'Speaking in a Manner That Perpetuates Racism' After Defending 'Bachelor' Contestant

The Bachelor host Chris Harrison is apologizing for "wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism" following an interview in which he defended current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell amid the current controversy surrounding her alleged pre-show racial actions. Speaking with Bachelor Nation's first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, in an interview with Extra, Harrison defended Kirkconnell as having been "thrown to the lions," saying the "poor girl" needed more time before coming forward with an explanation herself.

The interview incensed Bachelor fans and members of the franchise such as Taylor Nolan and Ashley Spivey, who spoke out against Harrison online. A fan-made petition soon racked up more than 18,300 signatures demanding Harrison be fired for "problematic and blatantly bigoted comments" over the years. Wednesday evening, the longtime host released an apology statement.

"To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology. I have this incredible platform to speak about love, and yesterday I took a stance on topics which I should have been better informed," he wrote. "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," he continued, offering up an apology to Lindsay for not "listening to her better" during their discussion of racism. "I promise to do better," the longtime host concluded.

Kirkconnell has been criticized since first appearing on Matt James' season for dressing in a Native American costume on social media and liking a June 2020 Instagram post in which the women were also wearing Native American costumes. Last week, people were upset when photos surfaced of Kirkconnell at a 2018 event identified as the Kappa Alpha Order 'Old South' formal, "an antebellum plantation themed ball," according to the Reddit post.

Harrison said of the contestant during Wednesday's interview, "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, like, her parents and her parents' voting record. It's unbelievably alarming to watch this." When Lindsay pressed him on the Old South party being "not a good look," Harrison suggested that attitudes about race had shifted over the past three years.

"Well, Rachel is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference," said Harrison. Lindsay responded, "It's not a good look ever, because she's celebrating the Old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?" Harrison said he didn't disagree with Lindsay, but stood by his initial statement.

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"You're 100 percent right in 2021. That was not the case in 2018," he said, adding, "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. We are not looking under the same lens." He continued that "this poor girl Rachael" had been "thrown to the lions," defending her silence as her needing "a little time" to handle things.