'The Bachelor: After the Final Rose' host Emmanuel Acho discusses Chris Harrison's possible return as franchise host
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 03/15/2021
The Bachelor: After the Final Rose host Emmanuel Acho has revealed his thoughts on whether Chris Harrison should eventually be able to return to the franchise as its host amid his racism controversy.
ABC hired the sports analyst, author and former NFL player to take over Chris' job on Matt James' After the Final Rose special airing Monday night after Chris announced last month he'd be temporarily "stepping aside" from his hosting duties to educate himself on racism in society in a "profound" manner.
"Chris and I have spoken at length over the last two weeks. Very good and helpful conversations [took place] before I was even named the host of After the Final Rose, and we've just had positive dialogue," shared Emmanuel, who hosts the web series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.
In a controversial early-February interview with Rachel, who starred as the first Black Bachelorette, Chris called for "grace" and "compassion" for Rachael and also criticized the "woke police" and the "unbelievably alarming" response to the young woman's insensitive actions.
Rachel asked Emmanuel, "What does Chris Harrison need to do to really show that he has really learned from his mistake?"
And Emmanuel replied, "The first thing is people need to give him the opportunity, the grace, and the time to do the work. And then they need to receive the work that he does."
Emmanuel went on to explain what his mission was for hosting After the Final Rose.
"No. 1 is to reconcile. There is so much tension between the photos that have surfaced around Rachael Kirkconnell that's like, wait a second -- let's try to seek understanding first before we seek tension," Emmanuel said.
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Rachael was accused of bullying a girl in high school for dating a Black man and raised eyebrows when she liked an offensive photo on Instagram of 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.
Emmanuel said the second thing he wants to get across on After the Final Rose is Matt's The Bachelor story.
"[I want to] just adequately tell these love stories. Matt is on a journey for love, and instead, everything has been, to a degree, overshadowed by him being the first Black Bachelor," Emmanuel explained.
"So let me honor Matt and his journey of love, especially as it comes down to these final couple of women."
In addition to Rachael, Michelle Young is also still in the running for Matt's heart on the show.
When asked whether he's glad he accepted the responsibilities of hosting The Bachelor: After the Final Rose for the franchise's historic 25th season, Emmanuel insisted, "Absolutely."
"I never in a million years thought that my book on racial reconciliation would lead me to one of the most storied shows and one of the most pivotal and volatile moments in this franchise and that I would be the man for this moment," Emmanuel said, referring to his book Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.
Rachel wondered, however, "If Matt does pick Rachael, do you think there will be a lot of pressure on him to break up with her?"
Emmanuel admitted to the Extra reporter, "Matt's in a tough position."
"If you are Black with someone who is racially insensitive, you don't necessarily have the same luxury to continue to endure that relationship without pushback from society," he explained. "Is it worth fighting for? And that's what Matt has to figure out."
Emmanuel decided to "leave it at that" until viewers can watch the special Monday night at 10PM ET/PT on ABC.
"But we had conversations that I don't think have ever been seen or ever been had on linear television," Emmanuel teased of his chat with Matt.
"America will kind of be gripping the edge of their seats as they watch this dialogue which they've likely never seen before."
Emmanuel also appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last week and said he "[doesn't] believe in cancel culture," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Emmanuel reportedly said he does, however, expect people to take accountability and right their wrongs.
Multiple sources recently told OK! Weekly that Emmanuel's performance on The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special -- which was filmed in advance for the first time in years -- may serve as his audition to take over Chris's hosting job in the future.
"If Emmanuel does a great job and gets huge ratings, Chris is gone forever," an insider told the magazine.
Another source said The 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, and Chris announced earlier this month on Good Morning America that he wants to continue being the face of the franchise.
"I plan to be back and I want to be back," Chris told GMA co-host Michael Strahan. "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."
Chris also insisted during that GMA interview he had made "a mistake" in trying to defend Rachael this season, which was supposed to be a turning point for the franchise considering Matt starred as the first Black Bachelor after two decades of being on the air.
"I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake, and I own that," Chris said.
"I believe that mistake doesn't reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to the progress, not just for myself but also for the franchise... Racism, oppression, these are big, dynamic problems and they take serious work, and I am committed to that work."
Chris also denounced bullying and harassment directed towards Rachel in the aftermath of their Extra interview given Rachel felt the need to delete her Instagram account.
In addition, 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.
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."
Prior to his appearance on GMA, Chris also issued two apologies on his Instagram account late last month.
Rachael also apologized for her social-media scandal and said her "ignorance was racist" and she's been trying to use her social-media platform to help educate others about her mistakes.