Former star of “The Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay reacted to news that Chris Harrison, longtime host of ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise, is leaving the series following backlash over his comments during their on-air discussion about racism in February.
Lindsay, a correspondent on “Extra,” said on the show Tuesday that she wasn’t “expecting” Harrison to leave “The Bachelor” franchise for good.
“I wasn’t expecting for it to happen, not after the announcement,” she said during a conversation with co-host Billy Bush, according to People.
Harrison, who also served as an executive producer on seasons of “The Bachelor” and its spinoffs, addressed his departure on Instagram, writing Monday that he’s had an “incredible run as host” of the franchise. He had hosted the reality show for nearly two decades.
He garnered wide backlash in February after he defended Rachael Kirkconnell, a white contestant accused of racism, during an interview with Lindsay, who had been the franchise’s first Black Bachelorette.
Kirkconnell, who won the 25th season featuring Bachelor Matt James ― the first Black lead of the series ― appeared in photos that surfaced online of her attending a racist “Old South” ball hosted by a chapter of the Kappa Alpha fraternity in 2018. Fans of the franchise have also criticized her for liking photos containing the Confederate flag and for reportedly sharing pro-police messaging amid Black Lives Matter protests last summer. One woman alleged that Kirkconnell had bullied her in high school for liking Black guys.
The “Bachelor” contestant posted an apology in February, calling some of her past actions “offensive and racist.”
But before Kirkconnell published an apology, Harrison insisted to Lindsay that the public should have given her “grace” and “understanding” after photos showing her at the “Old South” party emerged online. He called the 24-year-old a “poor girl” and criticized the “woke police.”
When Lindsay questioned Harrison on what it would have meant for her ― a Black woman ― to attend an “Old South” party, Harrison conceded that Lindsay was “100% right in 2021,” but he charged that that party was likely not seen as offensive in 2018 ― three years ago.
Harrison initially announced in February that he was temporarily stepping away from the franchise after the interview aired.
Lindsay said on “Extra” earlier this week that she believes the mounting criticism toward Harrison, in addition to her interview, led to his permanent exit.
“I think several past contestants coming forward and saying they didn’t want him to be part of ‘Paradise’; I think Katie Thurston, her very last tweet before she went to film her season was that Chris needed to step away ― I think that, coupled with the interview that happened on this very stage, maybe led to him not coming back,” Lindsay said, according to People.
Thurston, the star of the current season of “The Bachelorette,” tweeted a statement supporting Lindsay in February and slammed those who attacked the “Extra” host over her interview with Harrison.
“I will always be a Rachel Lindsay supporter,” she wrote, in part.
Thurston told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Monday that she had her “own concerns” about the racism controversy surrounding the franchise and ongoing criticism about the lack of representation of people of color in the franchise’s cast and crew.
“I definitely want diversity in my cast,” she said. “And I want it to be a platform for these men to be heard. That’s what this is about — their stories, the love and a little less of what everyone else saw before.”
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