A longtime presenter on American dating show ‘The Bachelor’ said he was stepping down after being widely criticized for his racist remarks.
Chris Harrison drew ire after he excused behaviour of a current cast member that some said was racist, saying he was not the “woke police”.
“By excusing historical racism, I defended it,” the 49-year-old host said in an Instagram post announcement.
This current season is the first to include a black lead.
The show revolves around one bachelor choosing his/her spouse from a pool of hopefuls.
In June 2020, fans of the ABC program called for it to address the unequal treatment of members of colored cast members.
Leading the show was Rachel Lindsay, who at the time was the last black person to ever work on The Bachelor’s sister program, Bachelorette.
The show responded with a promise to address their race problems by broadcasting more people of color. They announced the first black lead, Matt James, as the next Bachelor on 12 June 2020, following the protests over George Floyd’s death.
When pictures surfaced of current contestant Rachael Kirkonnell at an Old South fraternity formal at a former slave plantation in 2018, she drew immediate criticism from fans. Ms Kirkonnell has since apologised.
‘I’m Not The Woke Police’
In an interview with Ms Lindsey on Extra TV, Mr Harrison defended Ms Kirkonnell, who is now a top runner who has yet to be eliminated from the show.
“I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that’s it,” said Mr Harrison. Ms Lindsay reminded him the photo had been taken in 2018, which “wasn’t a good look”.
“Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference,” said Mr Harrison.
To this, Mrs Lindsay pushed back and said: “It’s not a good look ever.”
“I am not the woke police,” he replied, a phrase he reiterated several times throughout the interview.
Petition To Fire Chris
After the interview began on Tuesday, a request for the network to fire him spread. By Saturday morning, 38,000 signatures had been collected.
Ms Lindsay, who has now met her husband on the show, spoke in her 13-minute interview with Mr Harrison in a podcast she held on Friday.
“During that conversation, he talked over me and at me, during that conversation,” she said.
“He never gave me room to talk. And he never gave me room to share my perspective. He wasn’t trying to hear it. He was just trying to be heard.”
Over the next few days, fans pressured former cast members to speak out.
Ben Higgins and Joelle Fletcher, both good friends of Mr Harrison and considered frontrunners to succeed him should he eventually retire, condemned his words.
“Chris’ statements were harmful. They were not helpful,” Mr Higgins wrote on Instagram.
The momentum snowballed as the entire cast from this season posted a joint statement standing by Mrs Lindsey.
After a two-day silence, he announced on Saturday that he would take action to step back “for a while”.
“To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry. My words were harmful,” he said on Instagram.