'Bachelor' host steps aside over racism row

TV host Chris Harrison in a 2015 file photo
TV host Chris Harrison in a 2015 file photo Alberto E. Rodriguez GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
2 min
Advertising

New York (AFP)

Chris Harrison, the host of US reality TV dating show "The Bachelor," has announced he is stepping down after he was widely criticised for comments he made about race.

On Instagram Saturday, Harrison said he had been wrong to defend a current contestant who had to apologize for attending a sorority party at a former slave plantation.

"By excusing historial racism, I defended it," the 49-year-old wrote.

"I invoked the term 'woke police,' which is unacceptable," he added.

"I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong. To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry. My words were harmful," Harrison wrote, using an acronym for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Harrison, who has hosted "The Bachelor" since 2002, said that after consultation with Warner Bros. and ABC he will be "stepping aside for a period of time."

He added he would also not participate in the "After the Final Rose Special."

"The Bachelor" centers on a single man selecting a potential spouse from a group of women who compete for his affections.

The current season features its first Black lead in the show's nearly two-decade history -- Matt James.

Fans of the hugely popular program petitioned for a Black lead last summer as massive Black Lives Matter protests swept the United States following the killing of George Floyd.

Current cast member and perceived front-runner Rachael Kirkconnell has been criticised in recent weeks after photos emerged of her at an "Old South" themed party in 2018.

Kirkconnell has apologized, saying her "ignorance was racist."

When Rachel Lindsay, who became the first Black lead on "The Bachelorette" in 2017, pressed Harrison on Kirkconnell during an interview on Extra TV this week, he defended her.

Harrison downplayed the photo, saying there was a "big difference" between a photo taken in 2018 and 2021.

Lindsay replied by saying the photo was "not a good look ever."

Harrison also accused Kirkconnell's critics of being "judge, jury, executioner," and repeatedly said, "I'm not the woke police."

He first apologized on Thursday, but a petition calling for his removal quickly swelled, and had reached almost 40,000 signatures on Sunday.