“I made a mistake,” he said of his defense of a top contestant’s posts, ones that Strahan described as “racist.”
This is the first season in nearly 20 years that “The Bachelor” is featuring a Black man as the lead: Matt James, a 29-year-old real estate broker from New York City. Last month, Harrison announced that he would step aside and not host the show’s “After the Final Rose” episode after he defended the contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell. According to Internet sleuths, Kirkconnell had “liked” a post of friends posing in front of a Confederate flag; shared an Instagram post whose language echoed the QAnon extremist ideology; dressed in a Native American costume; and attended an “Old South” antebellum-themed party in college in 2018. She has since apologized and is among Bachelor Matt James’s three remaining contestants.
Shortly after those social media posts came to light, Harrison did an interview on “Extra” with Rachel Lindsay, the show’s first Black Bachelorette from 2017. In this conversation, Harrison excused Kirkconnell’s actions, saying he was not “the woke police” and noting that although Kirkconnell’s posts weren’t acceptable in 2021, they weren’t such a misstep just a few years ago.
Lindsay pushed back on this notion, both in the interview and later, saying that, in defending Kirkconnell, Harrison’s privilege was on display. “He never gave me room to talk, and he never gave me room to share my perspective,” Lindsay said on “Higher Learning,” a podcast she co-hosts. “He wasn’t trying to hear it, he was just trying to be heard.” Lindsay has since received so much hate on Instagram that she’s deactivated her account.
On “Good Morning America,” Harrison was more contrite. When Strahan asked Harrison why he would defend Kirkconnell, he said: “I’m 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. I am committed to the progress — not just for myself, also for the franchise.”
When Strahan asked Harrison whether there was a difference between 2018 and 2021, this time Harrison said there is not. “Antebellum parties are not okay — past, present, future. Knowing what that represents is unacceptable.”
Harrison also apologized directly to Lindsay, who’s still affiliated with the Bachelor franchise. She co-hosts the ABC-sponsored podcast “Bachelor Happy Hour” with Becca Kufrin, another former Bachelorette. “I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay, and I didn’t speak from my heart, and that is to say: I stand against all forms of racism,” Harrison said. “And I am deeply sorry. I’m sorry to Rachel Lindsay, and I’m sorry to the black community.”
Harrison also spoke directly to Bachelor fans, telling them to stop “throwing hate” at Lindsay, adding, “It is unacceptable.”
Harrison’s tone on Thursday with Strahan was remarkably different from the defensiveness he used with Lindsay. Strahan noted that Harrison has been working with a race educator and strategist, and he has been seeking counsel from Michael Eric Dyson, a prominent Black minister and scholar. “Racism, oppression — these are big, dynamic problems. And they take serious work — and I am committed to that work,” Harrison said.
While Harrison is taking some time away from hosting “The Bachelor,” Emmanuel Acho, a former NFL player and author of the book and YouTube series “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Man,” will host “After the Final Rose.”
Harrison said he plans to be back as Bachelor host soon. “There is much more work to be done, and I’m excited to be part of that change.”
Strahan appeared skeptical. After his conversation with Harrison, Strahan turned to his co-anchors George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts and said: “I felt like I got nothing more than a surface response on any of this. … But only time will tell if there is any meaning behind his words.”