Chris Harrison says he "made a mistake" in new interview, but Michael Strahan calls 'The Bachelor' host's apology a "surface response"
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/04/2021
Chris Harrison has spoken out for the first time since "stepping aside" as The Bachelor host nearly three weeks ago and denounced racism in all forms, but Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan doesn't seem impressed with Chris's latest apology.
On Thursday's GMA episode, Michael sternly addressed Chris and explained, "I think the biggest surprise for a lot of people is that this season was supposed to be a turning point for the show. We have the first Black Bachelor in the franchise's history after two decades of being on the air."
"It's a move that had already been criticized as 'too little, too late' by quite a few people and is now being overshadowed by this controversy over racism -- but not just by a contestant on the show but also by its own host," Michael continued.
"And you are the face of the show. So a lot of people, and I'm wondering, why would you defend Rachael Kirkconnell?"
Chris, 49, replied, "It was a mistake, I made a mistake. I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake, and I own that."
"I believe that mistake doesn't reflect who I am or what I stand for," Chris said. "I am committed to the progress, not just for myself but also for the franchise."
Rachael was accused of bullying a girl in high school for dating a Black man and recently liking offensive photos on Instagram, such as two friends posing in front of a Confederate flag.
In addition to an image of Rachael dressed in Native-American costume, photos also resurfaced of Rachael attending a plantation-themed "Old South" fraternity party at Georgia College & State University in 2018.
Chris called for "grace" and "compassion" for Rachael and also criticized the "woke police" and the "unbelievably alarming" response to the young woman's actions.
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"You said [to Rachel], 'Is it not a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference.' So, to you, what is the difference? Is there one?" Michael asked.
"There is not. Antebellum parties are not okay -- past, present, future. Knowing what that represents is unacceptable," Chris said.
"I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay. I didn't speak for my heart, and that is to say I stand against all forms of racism and I am deeply sorry. I am sorry to Rachel Lindsay and I'm sorry to the Black community."
Michael pointed out that since Chris's interview with Rachel aired, the Season 13 The Bachelorette star has been subjected to intense scrutiny, bullying and harassment by fans of the show and members of Bachelor Nation.
Rachel was blamed for Chris's temporary leave of absence from The Bachelor, and overwhelming hate and negativity resulted in Rachel deactivating her Instagram account.
"I talked to Rachel, not since she deactivated her Instagram account, but I talked to Rachel initially and I apologized," Chris said. "And I want to do so again -- I am incredibly sorry."
Chris continued, "To anyone who is throwing hate at Rachel Lindsay, please stop. It is unacceptable."
Michael asked Chris if he thinks the reaction he has received is fair given tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition asking ABC to fire him permanently from his hosting position.
"I am not a victim here; I made a mistake and I own that. Racism, oppression, these are big, dynamic problems and they take serious work, and I am committed to that work."
Chris revealed he's been working closely with "a race educator and strategist" along with faith leaders and scholars like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson.
"Dr. Dyson often talks to me about counsel, not cancel. And that is full accountability: understanding what you didn't understand, owning that, learning from that, seeking council from the community that you hurt, learning from them and listening, gaining experience and knowledge and moving forward," Chris shared.
Michael therefore asked Chris whether he believes he is the right person to lead this franchise into the future.
"I plan to be back and I want to be back," Chris said. "This interview is not the finish line. There is much more work to be done, and I am excited to be a part of that change."
Michael responded, "There is a lot more work to be done and I couldn't agree with you more on that."
After the segment aired Michael vented on GMA of Chris, "His apology is his apology, but it felt like I got nothing more than a surface response on any of this. I mean obviously, he's a man who wants to clearly stay on this show."
Michael added, "But only time will tell if there is any meaning behind his words."
Part of Chris's action to step aside from The Bachelor franchise is that he won't be participating in After the Final Rose on Monday, March 15 at 10PM ET/PT on ABC. The special will instead be hosted by Emmanuel Acho, a former NFL linebacker and Fox Sports analyst who hosts the weekly web series Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man.
Multiple sources told OK! Weekly that Emmanuel's performance on The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special -- which is being filmed in advance for the first time in years -- may serve as his audition to take over Chris's hosting job heading into the next The Bachelorette season.
"If Emmanuel does a great job and gets huge ratings, Chris is gone forever," an insider told the magazine.
Another source saidThe Bachelor producers have been "getting clobbered with calls for Chris's removal as host and they are weighing that option."
Many The Bachelor fans, however, are still standing behind Chris and rallying for him to stay on the show.
In addition to an inevitably tense conversation about racism in the franchise, Emmaneul will also interview Matt and his Final 3 bachelorettes: Bri Springs, Michelle Money and the controversial Rachael.
"Emmanuel doesn't want to burn the show down, but at the same time, he has to ask uncomfortable questions that will make producers and fans squirm," the insider told OK!.
The Bachelor producers reportedly feel pressure to "get this episode right" or else the future of their franchise could be in jeopardy and so a choice was made to pre-tape the special rather than film it live like most previous seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
Rachael has apologized for her actions and confessed her "ignorance was racist," and she said she's now trying to use her social-media platform to help educate others about her mistakes.
Prior to his appearance on GMA, Chris released two apologies late last month.
Rachel publicly admitted she had a tough time accepting Chris's first apology since his words seemed hasty and insincere, and so Chris went on to release a second, more extensive and apologetic letter to Bachelor Nation on Instagram.
Despite Chris's two statements, Rachel expressed hesitation and concern over whether Chris should ever return to his role as host of the franchise since many cast members and fans of the show are up in arms.
Rachel subsequently received an offer to hostThe Bachelor: After the Final Rose special for Matt's season, according to Us Weekly, and Rachel was accused of cancel culture and essentially trying to steal Chris's job.