Chris Harrison, host of the popular ABC reality show “The Bachelorette,” is calling for more “grace” toward one of the series’ leading contestants who, in 2018, attended an “antebellum-themed” party.
The 49-year-old TV personality addressed frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell’s decision to attend a now-controversial party as a college student. He told “Extra” host Rachel Lindsay the party would have been less controversial prior to 2020, and urged fans of the show to extend “a little understanding” and “a little compassion” toward Kirkconnell.
Harrison also voiced concerns over cancel culture more broadly.
“I have seen some stuff online, again, this judge, jury, executioner thing, where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart, and diving into her and her parents’ voting record,” he said. “It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I’m not defending [Kirkconnell]. I just know that — I don’t know — 50 million people [attended parties like] that in 2018.”
He went on to explain that we should be wary about applying today’s standards and “woke” rules to the past.
Harrison didn’t defend the contestant’s past actions. However, he did encourage viewers to be cautious about prematurely labeling someone because of one decision they made several years ago, particularly before the individual has spoken out about his or her own actions.
“I am not the woke police,” the show host said. “There’s plenty of people — plenty of people — who will do that for us in this world right now. I don’t know, do you go tear all those places [plantations] down and tear up the dirt and dig deep enough that it erases it? I don’t know.”
“When you see San Francisco erasing Lincoln and erasing Washington and erasing people [from the names of public schools] because of what they stood for 180 years ago, I don’t know, is that right?” Harrison continued. “Is that wrong? The woke police is out there and this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions — I don’t know how you are equipped, when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this.”
With those things in mind, Harrison told Lindsay it’s likely Kirkconnell “needs a little time” before she is forced to address her choice to attend a party as a young college student.
“We don’t give people time to have some perspective, to try and drink this in for a second,” he said.
Lindsay seemingly disagreed with Harrison’s suggestion that culture was different in 2018 and that there should be some nuance afforded to Kirkconnell, who is vying for the first black bachelor in the franchise’s history.
Harrison’s comments did not sit well with some fans and social media users, who started a Change.org petition to have the ABC host removed from “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” The petition stated Harrison needs to go because he “has a history of misogyny and racist behavior and racist-sympathizing behavior.
It has garnered more than 33,000 signatures so far.
Emma Gray, a reporter for the progressive HuffPost, said Harrison “expresses more empathy for people who romanticize the Confederacy than people who are harmed by white supremacy.”
She said watching the interview between Harrison and Lindsay left her “shaking with rage,” again accusing the host of “romanticizing slave plantations and Confederate imagery.”
Harrison ultimately bowed to pressure, issuing a “sincere apology” because he “took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed,” referring to his interview on “Extra.”
“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 own behalf,” he wrote. “What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and, for that, I am so deeply sorry.”
“I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable,” Harrison continued. “I promise to do better.”
Kirkconnell broke her silence Thursday. She apologized for attending an “Old South”-themed fraternity party when she was a college student.
The contestant vowed to learn to be an “anti-racist.”
“I am sorry to the communities and individuals that my actions harmed and offended,” she wrote in a statement. “I am ashamed about my lack of education, but it is no one’s responsibility to educate me. I am learning and will continue to learn how to be anti-racist.”
“Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions,” Kirkconnell continued. “I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don’t think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather, I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions.”