During the interview, Harrison discussed the racial scandal that has caused him to step aside from the ABC dating show franchise that he has hosted since its debut in 2002, admitting he made a mistake by defending current contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who has been under fire for racially insensitive photos that re-surfaced on social media.
“It was a mistake,” Harrison told Strahan. “I made a mistake. I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that.”
The pre-recorded interview, which aired Thursday morning, was taped on Wednesday, Variety has learned. Both “The Bachelor” and “GMA” are major ABC properties.
Harrison spoke to the controversy in the wake of a season that was meant to advance the franchise by featuring the first Black “Bachelor,” Matt James.
“I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for,” he said. “I am committed to the progress not just for myself but also for the franchise.”
He also clarified his stance on the party Kirkconnell attended where the photos were taken. “Antebellum parties are not OK — past, present, future. Knowing what that represents is unacceptable.”
Harrison also apologized to former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay in the wake of his discussion with her about Kirkconnell, as well as the racist online bullying that followed, which caused her to deactivate her Instagram account.
“I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay,” he said. “I didn’t speak from my heart, and that is to say I stand against all forms of racism and I am deeply sorry. I talked to Rachel, not since she deactivated her Instagram account, but I talked with Rachel initially, and I apologized and I want to do so again: I am incredibly sorry. To anyone who is throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay, please stop. It is unacceptable”
Harrison said he’s working with a “race educator and strategist,” as well as faith leaders and scholars like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
“I am not a victim here,” he said. “I made a mistake and I own that. Racism, oppression, these are big dynamic problems and they take serious work and I am committed to that work.”
Harrison also confirms that he wants to stay the host of the franchise.
“I plan to be back and I want to be back,” he said. “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.”
After the taped interview ended, Strahan commented on the segment, saying, “His apology is his apology, but it felt like I got nothing more than a surface response on any of this, and obviously he’s a man who wants to clearly stay on the show, but only time will tell if there’s any meaning behind his words.”
The longtime host will not be part of the “After the Final Rose” episode, which serves as the season finale. Emmanuel Acho is stepping in to replace Harrison for that particular episode, which airs after the final episode of Matt James’ season of ‘The Bachelor,” on Mar. 15.
There’s no word yet on whether Harrison will return for the next season within the franchise that is heading into production this year, which is the 17th season of “The Bachelorette.” The network has not made any indication of Harrison’s future with the franchise.
Harrison has continuously received widespread criticism after an interview on “Extra” with Lindsay, where he spoke extensively through a 14-minute discussion, seemingly defending a racist controversy swirling around frontrunner contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, whose former photos resurfaced on social media, showing her in attendance at an Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018. She also allegedly liked photos on social media containing the Confederate flag.
Ever since appearing as the first-ever Black lead on the franchise, starring as “The Bachelorette” in 2017, Lindsay has spoken out extensively against the show’s issues with race and diversity. Earlier this week, on her podcast, she suggested that production should pause on “The Bachelorette” until the Harrison scandal is handled in a meaningful and productive way.
ABC and Warner Bros., which produces “The Bachelor” franchise, has not released any statement regarding the scandal. However, producers of “The Bachelor” posted a statement on Twitter this week, supporting Lindsay and taking a strong stance against online bullying that she has endured, ever since her interview with Harrison.
Following Harrison’s interview on “GMA,” Lindsay spoke about his interview on Thursday’s episode of “Extra” on which she is a correspondent. In conversation with Billy Bush, Lindsay said she accepts Harrison’s apology.
“I do accept the apology, Billy, and I think it’s important for me to say that,” she said, in part. “This isn’t the first time he’s apologized to me — he apologized again on ‘GMA’ today, and I do accept that and I think it’s important for me to say that because we need to move forward. And for me, for us to move forward, I need to accept the apology, so we can all be better from this situation, which is what we want.”
Lindsay continued: “It’s bigger than just ‘The Bachelor.’ It’s bigger than just a reality TV show. There are a lot of issues that have come up because of this interview, and I think it’s important that we continue the conversation, we continue to move forward. And I think that’s the best thing that we can hope for out of all of this.”
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with Rachel Lindsay’s comments made on the Mar. 4 episode of “Extra” with Billy Bush.