The long-time host of hit US dating show The Bachelor is stepping down permanently after widespread criticism of his comments on race.
Chris Harrison, who also fronted the show’s spin-offs, will not return to the ABC programmes, Deadline reported.
Controversy erupted in February after he excused past behaviour of a cast member who had been accused of racism, saying he was not the “woke police”.
“By excusing historical racism, I defended it,” he said at the time.
Harrison hosted The Bachelor for 25 seasons, from the show’s beginning in 2002. He also fronted The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise.
‘Ashamed and uninformed’
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette revolve around a single man or woman selecting a potential spouse from a pool of suitors.
The news of Harrison’s permanent exit came a day after season 17 of The Bachelorette began without him. Former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe are the show’s hosts instead.
In February, Harrison “stepped aside” and apologised for “speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism” during an interview with former Bachelorette Rachelle Lindsay.
In the interview, he commented on photos showing The Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell at a ball themed around a slavery-era plantation when she was 18.
Harrison later issued a longer apology, saying: “By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term ‘woke police’, which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong.”
Kirkconnell also apologised, saying: “At one point, I didn’t recognise how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them.
“My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
In June 2020, fans of the ABC show petitioned for it to address the unequal treatment of cast members of colour.
At the forefront of that initiative was Lindsay, who at the time was the only black lead to have ever served on The Bachelorette.
The show responded with a promise to address their race issues by casting more people of colour, and announced The Bachelor’s first black lead, Matt James, for the series in which Kirkconnell was a contestant.
She ended up winning, and she and James are still in a relationship.