Following widespread criticism for his comments perpetuating racism, longtime “Bachelor” host Chris Harrison will be replaced by Emmanuel Acho for the “After the Final Rose” episode, Variety has learned.
Acho is a best-selling author and the host of the online series “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” which serves to spark meaningful dialogue around racial ignorance. The show launched in June 2020 and has more than 80 million views to date. A former NFL linebacker, Acho is also an analyst for Fox Sports and the co-host of “Speak for Yourself.”
During the special, airing March 15 after the show’s finale, Acho will sit down with “Bachelor” lead Matt James, as well as his final three women: Bri, Michelle and Rachael. Acho will discuss the outcome of the finale and the current events surrounding the “Bachelor” franchise.
“It’s both an honor and privilege to be hosting ‘After the Final Rose.’ This is an incredibly pivotal episode on one of the most storied shows in television history,” Acho said in a statement.
Former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay said in an interview with People this week that Acho would be her pick to replace Harrison, though it is unclear if her suggestion affected ABC’s decision.
“For AFTR, Bryan and I both talked about this — we think Emmanuel Acho would be fantastic,” Lindsay told People, adding that Acho is “very outspoken about racial injustice, for social justice, and has pretty much been the person who said, ‘I can have these uncomfortable conversations, and people trust it.'”
“Who better to lead it?” Lindsay continued. “[He’s] someone who’s not involved with the franchise, no ties, no bias — I think it’d be great.”
Harrison had previously announced that he would be “stepping aside” from the franchise for an undisclosed period of time in the wake of the controversy, which erupted earlier this year when former photos of “The Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell surfaced, showing her at an Old South plantation-themed fraternity party.
The controversy hit a boiling point when Harrison sat down for an interview on “Extra” with Lindsay, seemingly defending Kirkconnell, going to great lengths to speak out against the “woke police” and suggesting that the photos were not offensive when they were taken in 2018.
“The picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party… that’s not a good look,” Lindsay said during the interview with Harrison, to which he became defensive and replied, “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”
“It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay said, adding, “If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”
In addition to the problematic photos, Kirkconnell also liked images on social media that included the Confederate flag, and was accused on TikTok of bullying a classmate for dating a Black man. (Kirkconnell, who remains a frontrunner on the current season of “The Bachelor,” has since apologized, stating, “I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”)
The controversy has been steadily growing on social media, as numerous members of Bachelor Nation have been speaking out against the franchise — not just for this specific incident, but for the franchise’s historical handling of race and inclusion.
James, current star of “The Bachelor” — who is the first-ever Black lead of the show in its two-decade history — released a statement earlier this week, stating that the Harrison scandal “was a clear reflection of a much larger issue that ‘The Bachelor’ franchise has fallen short on addressing adequately for years.”
James’ season is the most diverse one ever with 25 contestants who identify as BIPOC being part of the cast. The women united to release a statement in reaction to the Harrison and Kirkconnell controversy, writing, “We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism. Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized.”
While Harrison is stepping aside as host of “After the Final Rose,” it is unclear if he will appear in the episode in any capacity.
It’s also not clear when Harrison will be returning as host of the “The Bachelor” franchise, or whether he will return at all. ABC has not commented on Harrison’s status with the franchise.
Typically, after a season of “The Bachelor” wraps, “The Bachelorette” immediately heads into production to make its early spring airdate. Then, after “Bachelorette” wraps, production begins on summer series “Bachelor in Paradise,” which is planned to return this summer after being scrapped last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Harrison serves as host of all these shows — and has been the only host since the franchise debuted in 2002 — so should “Bachelorette” stick to its planned production schedule, ABC and Warner Horizon will need to make a decision regarding Harrison’s involvement rather quickly.
“After the Final Rose,” which serves as the finale episode to each season, will need to dig deep into numerous issues that have been raised this season. Aside from Harrison’s scandal, James has indicated that he wants answers regarding Kirkconnell, whose resurfaced photos he called “incredibly disappointing.” (Kirkconnell still remains a finalist on James’ season, which has resulted in an awkward viewing experience for audience members who are aware of the controversy taking place off-camera.)
“The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real time,” James wrote, “And it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly.”
“The Bachelor: After the Final Rose” airs March 15 on ABC, following the finale of “The Bachelor.”