Chris Harrison’s future with “The Bachelor” franchise remains in limbo, as the longtime host — who came under fire for racially insensitive comments — will sit out this summer’s season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” sources tell Variety.
The role will be filed by celebrity comedians — including David Spade — who will serve as guest hosts, according to those with knowledge of the plans. As of Wednesday, offers to celebrity talent were still being considered and Spade’s deal was the only one to have closed. Unlike the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette,” which premieres next week, “Bachelor in Paradise” will not be hosted by Bachelor Nation alums.
ABC and Warner Bros. TV declined to comment about Harrison’s involvement with “Bachelor in Paradise,” and his future status with “The Bachelor” franchise. The network and studio also declined to comment on Spade.
Harrison has been on the sidelines and embroiled in controversy since February when he made highly criticized comments during an interview about the controversy surrounding “The Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who ended up winning the season with Matt James, the first-ever Black lead of the dating series. Kirkconnell attended an antebellum-themed fraternity party in 2018, while she was a college student, and when the controversial images resurfaced on social media this year, Harrison defended Kirkconnell during an interview with former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay. (Lindsay has since parted ways with the franchise, opting not to renew her contract to host a “Bachelor” podcast.)
As the controversy escalated into a media scandal, James and Kirkconnell briefly broke up, speaking about the issue on the finale episode, “After the Final Rose.” Today, James and Kirkconnell are back together and have publicized their relationship on social media and in the press.
When Harrison’s interview with Lindsay blew up this past February, Harrison apologized and announced he would be stepping aside for an undisclosed period, first starting with “After the Final Rose,” which was guest hosted by Emmanuel Acho. At the time, Harrison stated, “I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before.”
It was later announced that Harrison would not be hosting the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette,” starring Katie Thurston. In Harrison’s absence, former fan-favorite “Bachelorette” stars Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will serve as co-hosts for the season, which which premieres next on June 7.
At the time, ABC Entertainment and Warner Horizon issued a joint statement, which said, in part, “We support Chris in the work that he is committed to doing.” But in the months since, there has been no indication whether Harrison will return, and sources say the network and studio are taking a “wait-and-see” approach. A person close to Harrison says his attorney is “outraged” at how the matter is being handled.
Numerous individuals familiar with ongoing internal conversations explain that no decision has been made at this time regarding whether Harrison will remain the franchise’s permanent host going forward. Sources say that viewer reaction for the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette” could help determine his fate.
However, two separate sources have said it’s highly unlikely Harrison will serve as host for Michelle Young’s season of “The Bachelorette,” which is set to air this fall, after “Bachelor in Paradise.” If Harrison were to return, it appears that the soonest would be for Season 26 of “The Bachelor,” which airs in Jan. 2022.
Harrison is said to want to continue his hosting job — a role he has held ever since the juggernaut dating franchise debuted in 2002. Individuals close to Harrison say the veteran host cares deeply about the franchise and its viewers, and has no plans to walk away on his own accord. In March, Harrison told Michael Strahan on “Good Morning America” that he is working with a race educator, faith leaders and scholars, and said he would like to return to the show. “I plan to be back and I want to be back,” he said during the televised interview.
As the sole host who helped launch the hit dating franchise, Harrison has played a large part in the series’ immense success and has a loyal following within Bachelor Nation, who would like to see him return on-screen. On the other hand, many viewers are hurt and offended by Harrison’s comments regarding race, putting the network and studio in a challenging situation.
In March, Harrison retained power attorney Bryan Freedman as ABC and Warner Bros. determined next steps. The Los Angeles-based lawyer has represented the likes of Megyn Kelly in her exit with NBC News and Gabrielle Union in her dispute with “America’s Got Talent.” When contacted for this story, Freedman declined to comment.
Production on “Bachelor in Paradise” is set to begin next week, a source says. The new season will premiere on Aug. 16.