Arts & Culture News

Chris Harrison's Legacy Hangs in the Balance

There's a petition to remove The Bachelor's Chris Harrison as the show's host after he defended one castmate's racially insensitive photos.
There's a petition to remove The Bachelor's Chris Harrison as the show's host after he defended one castmate's racially insensitive photos. Earl Gibson III/Getty
During a interview on Extra, former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay interviewed Bachelor franchise host (and fellow Dallas native) Chris Harrison about this season of The Bachelor's problematic contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell. Kirkconnell came under scrutiny when photos of her at an Old South party surfaced online. Harrison seemingly defended her.

"I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that's it," Harrison says. "And boom, OK, this girl is in this book now; she's now in this group, and I'm like, really?"

Lindsay, the franchise's first Black lead, corrects Harrison that the photo is from 2018. "That's not a good look," she says.

"Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?" Harrison replies. "Because there's a big difference."

The rest of the video is essentially 13 minutes of Harrison defending racism to Lindsay, even calling any critics of the franchise the "woke police." Shortly after the interview went up on YouTube, Harrison apologized on his Instagram, writing, "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 behalf." Then over the weekend, Harrison posted on Instagram again, announcing he would step aside from hosting The Bachelor's After The Final Rose special.

"Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?" –Chris Harrison, in response to racially insensitive photos

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Pretty much since its inception, The Bachelor franchise has been critiqued for not casting many Black contestants. Lindsay was the show's first Black lead and this season includes Matt James, the first Black male lead. Black contestants are still few and far between, leading many to wonder if audiences will ever see true Black representation on the show.

Contestants from season 16 of The Bachelorette, which featured Tayshia Adams as a Black lead, released a statement, saying, "We stand united in denouncing racist behavior and any defense thereof." Adams said on her Instagram stories that she was "really hurt" about the conversation between Harrison and Lindsay.

"I am really hurt and disappointed and confused at the ignorance when it comes to race," she said.

Even though The Bachelor still has several more weeks to go until this Harrison-hosted season is over, the show has not addressed the controversy. Former Black Bachelorette contestant Mike Johnson said during an interview with Lindsay on Extra that he wasn't surprised.

"I feel that they don't have the right words to say. And at times, we don't ask for you to have the right words; we ask that you just speak," he said.

Johnson said he isn't in favor of "canceling" Harrison; instead he hopes the host will use his platform to speak up about racism, but he does think Harrison should no longer be the host of the franchise. There is a petition with more than 41,000 signatures to have Harrison removed as host. 
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Paige Skinner has written for the Dallas Observer since 2014.
Contact: Paige Skinner