LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – It’s official: Chris Harrison will never return to “The Bachelor” franchise, Variety has confirmed.
Harrison’s departure comes following a media spectacle of a controversy that erupted when the longtime host made racially insensitive comments, defending a contestant from the franchise.
Numerous insiders tell Variety that Harrison wanted to stay with the hit franchise, which he has hosted since day one when it premiered in 2002. Harrison is said to be very passionate about Bachelor Nation and was hoping to make it work to keep his job. But as the situation escalated, his team became outraged with the dragging-out process and, within the last few days, began to quickly explore an exit package.
Representatives for Harrison did not respond to Variety’s request for comment. Neither did ABC or Warner Bros. TV.
In the midst of all the off-screen drama, Harrison had hired power attorney Bryan Freedman, who has represented Megyn Kelly in her $69 million exit package from NBC News and also Gabrielle Union in her highly-publicized departure from NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
As negotiations were underway, Harrison’s team came to the table with ammo of their own — one example is bringing up former allegations against “The Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss, who was accused by his wife of domestic violence, which led to a police probe in 2019. (Fleiss and his wife have since reconciled.)
Last week, Variety reported that Harrison would not return to “Bachelor In Paradise” this summer — that announcement sped things up behind the scenes, specifically, after David Spade was announced as one of the rotating hosts for the summer dating series. Harrison’s team was perplexed at the choice of a white man who has spoken out against “cancel culture,” having to defend former fired “SNL” cast member Shane Gillis a few years back.
Harrison has been on the sidelines and embroiled in controversy since February when he made highly criticized comments during an interview about the controversy surrounding “The Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who ended up winning the season with Matt James, the first-ever Black lead of the dating series.
Kirkconnell attended an antebellum-themed fraternity party in 2018 while she was a college student, and when the controversial images resurfaced on social media this year, Harrison defended Kirkconnell during an interview with former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay. (Lindsay has since parted ways with the franchise, opting not to renew her contract to host a “Bachelor” podcast.)
As the controversy escalated into a media scandal, James and Kirkconnell briefly broke up, speaking about the issue on the finale episode, “After the Final Rose.” Today, James and Kirkconnell are back together and have publicized their relationship on social media and in the press.
When Harrison’s interview with Lindsay blew up this past February, Harrison apologized and announced he would be stepping aside for an undisclosed period, first starting with “After the Final Rose,” which was a guest hosted by Emmanuel Acho. At the time, Harrison stated, “I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before.”
It was later announced that Harrison would not be hosting the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette,” starring Katie Thurston. In Harrison’s absence, former fan-favorite “Bachelorette” stars Tayshia Adams, and Kaitlyn Bristowe are serving as co-hosts for the season, which premiered last night.
The news that Harrison would be leaving “The Bachelor” franchise was first reported by entertainment lawyer and journalist Matt Belloni in his “What I’m Hearing” newsletter.