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‘The Bachelor’ host ‘stepping aside’ after controversial interview

(CNN) — “Bachelor” host Chris Harrison said Saturday he is “stepping aside” from the show “for a period of time” after defending a frontrunner on the current season who came under scrutiny for social media photos from her past.

“This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions,” the host and producer of the ABC reality show said in an Instagram post.

“To that end, I have consulted with Warner Bros. and ABC and will be stepping aside for a period of time and will not join for the After the Final Rose special.”

This is the 25th season of ABC’s enormously popular reality dating franchise and the first in which ABC cast a Black man, Matt James, as the show’s star.

Harrison had apologized on Wednesday after speaking out on behalf of Rachael Kirkconnell, a contestant who was reportedly photographed at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018.

In Saturday’s post, Harrison wrote that he was “deeply remorseful” for the pain and damage his “ignorance” had brought to his “friends, colleagues and strangers alike.”

“To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry. My words were harmful. I am listening, and I truly apologize for my ignorance and any pain it caused you,” Harrison wrote.

“I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the people from these communities who I’ve had enlightening conversations with over the past few days, and I am so grateful to those who have reached out to help me on my path to anti-racism.”

Kirkconnell, in an Instagram post Thursday night, wrote that “her ignorance was racist” and that she “didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them.”

She apologized to the communities and individuals her actions harmed and offended, and wrote that she is “ashamed about my lack of education.”

“I don’t think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions,” she wrote.

Harrison did not say how long he would be stepping aside.

“I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before,” he wrote. “I want to ensure our cast and crew members, to my friends, colleagues and our fans: this is not just a moment, but a commitment to much greater understanding that I will actively make every day.”

Earlier this week, Harrison told “Extra” correspondent and former star of “The Bachelorette,” Rachel Lindsay, that Kirkconnell’s pictures were a long time ago and spoke out against cancel culture.

“I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago and that’s it. Like, boom,” Harrison said, adding, “I’m like, ‘Really?’”

Lindsay replied, “The picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party. That’s not a good look.”

Harrison replied, “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”

“It’s not a good look ever,” Lindsay said. “If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”

“You’re 100% right in 2021,” Harrison then said. “That was not the case in 2018. And again, I’m not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to. And again, I’m not defending it. I didn’t go to it.”

In another Instagram post, on Wednesday, Harrison apologized for his original defense of Kirkconnell, writing:

“To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology. have this incredible platform to speak about love, and yesterday I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed.”

“While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering her an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,” he continued. “What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry. I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better.”

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