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'The Bachelor' Host Chris Harrison Exits Franchise

Chris Harrison attends ABC's Winter TCA 2020 Press Tour in Pasadena, California, on January 8, 2020.
Chris Harrison attends ABC's Winter TCA 2020 Press Tour in Pasadena, California, on January 8, 2020.

In nearly twenty years hosting the different dating series in The Bachelor franchise, host Chris Harrison has handled everything from confronting rule-breaking contestants to chasing down Bachelor star Colton Underwood after he hopped a fence and tried to quit the show.

But today it is Harrison who is leaving. ABC and producers of The Bachelor and its spin offs, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise, have confirmed that the host is gone for good after fumbling a race-related controversy from the mothership program.

ABC Entertainment and Warner Horizon, the show's distributor and producer, acknowledged Harrison's departure today in a terse joint statement: "Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of The Bachelor franchise. We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey."

Harrison, 49, issued a more optimistic statement on his Instagram page, noting "I've had a truly incredible run as host of The Bachelor franchise and now I'm excited to start a new chapter. I'm so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we've made together. While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I've made will last a lifetime."

Representatives from ABC, Warner Horizon and Harrison did not otherwise respond to requests for comment.

The website Deadline reported Harrison's ouster, saying it came after intense negotiations culminating in a "midrange, eight-figure payoff" which would ensure the former host said little about the issue after the news was released.

Harrison has hosted The Bachelor and its spinoff shows since the series debuted in 2002. But he was sidelined in February, after an interview where he downplayed the significance of news that contestant Rachael Kirkconnell had once attended a party themed around the antebellum South, a period when slavery still existed.

The Bachelor was featuring its first Black star, Matt James. As the news about Kirkconnell spread, fans questioned whether the series had vetted its white contestants well enough to exclude contestants with racist issues in their past.

But Harrison derisively dubbed Kirkconnell's critics the "woke police," until a widespread backlash led him to issue an apology and step away from his hosting duties. "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 said in one of two apologies posted on Instagram.

His initial comments were seen as emblematic of the show's ongoing cluelessness about diversity issues, as it struggled to feature non-white stars and respect their perspectives.

And the controversy over Kirkconnell – who James had picked as the season's winner during episodes pretaped last year — eventually overshadowed the season finale in March. James wound up rejecting Kirkconnell during the program's After the Rose special, which was hosted by former NFL player and author Emmanuel Acho. (he has since told People magazine he is once again "pursuing a relationship" with her.)

Harrison's departure was initially characterized as a temporary stepping aside. But news that former Bachelorette stars Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe would host the edition of The Bachelorette that debuted Monday (and that guest hosts, including comic David Spade, would lead this year's edition of Bachelor in Paradise) led to speculation about his long-term future with the franchise.

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