Sun. May 26th, 2024

Chris Harrison is breaking his silence about his exit from “The Bachelor.”

The former TV host, 51, opened up about his departure from the ABC reality dating competition on the debut episode of “The Most Dramatic Podcast… Ever with Chris Harrison,” which premiered Jan. 9.

Harrison, who had hosted “The Bachelor” and its spinoffs including “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” since 2002 and also served as an executive producer, left the franchise in June 2021 after his interview with “Extra” correspondent and former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay ignited allegations of racism.

“I was heartbroken. I was gutted,” Harrison told his podcast listeners. “I was embarrassed. I was mad at myself. I was disappointed in myself. The last thing in the world I ever wanted to do was be an agent of anything negative — whether it had to do with race or anything.”

During his interview with Lindsay, who became the franchise’s first Black Bachelorette in 2017, Harrison defended former Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell for attending a “plantation-themed” sorority party in college in 2018. Kirkconnell won “The Bachelor” in March 2021 when she was paired up with Matt James, the show’s first Black male lead.

During the interview, Harrison brought up the timing of Kirkconnell’s attending the party.

“Is it (not) a good look in 2018. Or is it not a good look in 2021?” Harrison asked Lindsay. “Because there’s a big difference.”

He called for “grace” for those condemning Kirkconnell, saying, “People are just tearing this girl’s life apart. It’s just unbelievably alarming to watch this.”

Kirkconnell posted an apology on Instagram. She and James broke up amid the controversy and have since gotten back together.

Harrison’s comments caused a backlash with some accusing the host of racism. The interview also reignited long-standing criticisms about a lack of diversity on the “Bachelor” franchise.

Harrison revealed on his podcast that he was so upset by the backlash that his mental and physical health suffered. “I was sick, sick to my stomach. I lost 20 pounds. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat.” he said. “It was just one gut-punch after the other, and mentally and physically I deteriorated pretty bad.“

The former host added that his comments to Lindsay didn’t reflect what he really meant to say. “The point I was trying to get across, I stand by (but) the way I did it, it was messy, it was disappointing and it’s just not me,” he said, adding, “I wasn’t my normal eloquent self. I didn’t express myself like I normally do.”

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However, Harrison said he was shocked by the fiery reaction to the interview, which took place, he said, during a “very combustible moment in time” in U.S. culture when Americans were weary of the COVID pandemic and also reckoning with nationwide protests over the deaths of Black men and women while in police custody.

“There was a lot of confusion, anger, resentment,” said Harrison, adding, “My timing of being sloppy, inappropriate, wrong in that moment — that’s on me to have not seen that.”

Shortly after the interviewed aired, Harrison announced he was “stepping aside” from the franchise and apologized for his remarks in a statement.

“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 said at the time. “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.”

Harrison told his podcast listeners that he did not regret apologizing.

“My apology was warranted. I had no problem putting out that first apology … But there was just so much noise at the time, it just didn’t matter. Apologies didn’t matter,” he said.

“Even after that apology, we were still at ground zero,” he said. “It was confusing and it was scary.”

Harrison also said that he felt “used” by politicians on both “the left wing” and “the right wing,” who highlighted his interview with Lindsay for self-serving reasons. “My name became synonymous with this political, lightning-in-a-bottle moment,” he told listeners.

The two-hour episode is the start of a weekly podcast, part of a slate of audio shows he will produce with fiancée Lauren Zima.