Chris Harrison addresses 'Bachelor' controversy after temporary departure: 'I am an imperfect man'

Chris Harrison is speaking out, more than two weeks after temporarily stepping aside from The Bachelor.

In a sneak peek of his interview on Good Morning America, the embattled television host says "it was a mistake" to defend contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist behavior.

"I made a mistake," Harrison tells Michael Strahan. "I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that."

Harrison and The Bachelor franchise have been embroiled in controversy amid Matt James's historic season. Shortly after the Jan. 4 premiere, Kirkconnell — the presumed winner — was accused of past racist actions, which she has apologized for — twice. Among the allegations were photos of the 24-year-old graphic designer from 2018 at an "Old South" plantation-themed college formal.

In an interview on Extra with Rachel Lindsay, the franchise's first Black lead, Harrison asked for people to give Kirkconnell some "grace" while excusing historical racism.

"Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?" Harrison said of the pictures.

"It's not a good look ever because she's celebrating the Old South," Lindsay explained. "If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"

"I don't disagree with you," Harrison replied. "You're 100 percent right — in 2021. That was not the case in 2018. Again, I'm not defending Rachael. I just know, I don't know, 50 million people did that in 2018... that was a type of party that a lot of people went to."

Harrison, 49, apologized after the interview went viral, eliciting outrage from most of Bachelor Nation.

"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 wrote. "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."

Shortly after his mea culpa, Harrison announced he would "be stepping aside for a period of time" and will not host the traditional After the Final Rose special. Emmanuel Acho, a former NFL player and best-selling author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, has been tapped as his replacement. But Harrison's future longterm is up in the air.

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