Chris Harrison Stepped Down: How We Got Here

Alternate Title: The Bachelor = Cancelled

If you have been keeping up with the pop culture news this past week, then you’ll know that Chris Harrison, host of ABC’s The Bachelor, is stepping down from his position for a period of time after he made some controversial remarks during an Extra interview lead by Rachel Lindsey, the franchise's first Black Bachelorette back in 2017 when she led her cycle, who continues to work with the show.  

The remarks come amid social media controversy surrounding a current The Bachelor contestant. After the current season of The Bachelor premiered in January, questions about contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, racist past came into question. Her insensitive past behavior came into play when a viral TikTok claimed to reveal a social media history of liking posts with the Confederate flag featured and QAnon conspiracy theories, and even resurfaced photos found on Reddit of Kirkconnell attending an “Old South” plantation-themed college party back in 2018.  

When word of Kirkconnell’s past caught wind, Harrison, during his 13-minute interview with Lindsey waded in on the controversy saying, “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference," he asked Lindsay in reference to the "Old South" party photos. "Where is this lens we’re holding up and was this lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018?" 

Harrison refused to denounce Kirkconnell’s insensitive behavior when Lindsey asked for his opinion and this came before the current contestant herself spoke out on her past.  

Since the interview, however, Kirkconnell has addressed her past through a social media post saying, “I’m here to say I was wrong. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist. At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them.”  

Kirkconnell is competing for the heart of the franchise’s first-ever Black Bachelor in 25 seasons, Matt James, a big step for the franchise that has been celebrated after years of fans calling for more diversity in their majority-white series, starting with casting more leads of color. The franchise has even brought in a diversity team to help work with the contestants and crew for the show followed by the franchise hiring more producers of color and contestants of color.  

The franchise, which premiered in 2002, had not cast a person of color until Lindsey, and since then they have had a Latina Bachelorette, Claire Crawley, and for the first time, a Latina and Black female lead, Tayshia Adams. James’ season has had the most diverse talent ever in the show.  

However, although the franchise has taken big steps in order to replenish its practically racist reputation, the events that happened this past week go to show just how much improvement the series still needs to make.  

Casting BIPOC as leads and contestants, and hiring more BIPOC into their team is obviously not enough if the face of their show and franchise, Chris Harrison, is still making ignorant comments such as the ones stated above, in 2021, as well as not holding their contestants accountable for their past behaviors, such as Rachael Kirkconnell, who only after weeks of her past being in the spotlight said something about it.  

Kirkconnell is still a forerunner for the rose this season, and as for Harrison, who has hosted The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and its spinoffs since the reality shows first launch, will still be featured in the rest of the episodes of the season because they were pre-recorded. However, he will not be present for the final rose ceremony nor the ‘girls-tell-all’ episode. His role in future seasons and shows is still unknown at this point in time.  

As fans of the show or just as the general public we need to hold the franchise accountable. Saying, “I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before” as Harrison stated in his public apology, means nothing if they don’t evoke change.