LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -The host of television’s popular “Bachelor” dating show franchise is leaving after almost 20 years, ABC Entertainment said on Tuesday, following a furor over racially insensitive remarks.
Chris Harrison, who has hosted ABC’s “The Bachelor” and spinoffs including “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” since 2002, will not be returning after temporarily stepping aside in February, ABC and production company Warner Horizon said in a joint statement.
“Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of ‘The Bachelor’ franchise. We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey,” the companies said in a statement.
Harrison said in an Instagram post that he had enjoyed “a truly incredible run” as host.
“While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime,” he added.
Harrison’s future with the franchise has been in limbo since February when he sparked controversy for comments he made defending “The Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who won in March when she was paired up with Matt James, the first-ever Black male lead.
Images of Kirkconnell attending an antebellum-themed fraternity party in 2018, and wearing Native American attire while she was a college student, surfaced on social media while the show was airing.
Harrison’s comments fueled a long-running debate about a lack of diversity on the Bachelor franchise and came at a time of a wider reckoning in the United States following mass protests in 2020 over the deaths of unarmed Black men and women while in police custody.
Despite launching in 2002, the franchise did not have a Black person as a lead contestant until 2017, when Rachel Lindsay was cast as the first Black “Bachelorette.”
Both Harrison and Kirkconnell later apologized for their comments and actions, and Harrison said he was stepping aside temporarily as host.
Tuesday’s statement did not say who would replace Harrison as host of the franchise.
“The Bachelor” and its spin-off shows are among the most -watched and discussed shows on ABC, with a fan following known as Bachelor Nation.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)