Chris Harrison, host of ABC's reality dating show "The Bachelor," said Thursday that he "made a mistake" when he defended a current contestant's past racist behavior.
In an interview with ABC News' "Good Morning America," Harrison addressed his comments defending "Bachelor" contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, whose old photos showed her attending an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018. She was also accused of liking a photo containing the Confederate flag.
"I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake and I own that," Harrison told "GMA" co-host Michael Strahan. "I believe that mistake doesn't reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise."
Harrison was embroiled in controversy last month after an interview on "Extra" with former "Bachelorette" Rachel Lindsay, where he appeared to defend Kirkconnell. Days after the interview, Harrison announced that he was "stepping aside" from his hosting duties for "a period of time."
In his interview with Lindsay, Harrison expressed sympathy for Kirkconnell and implied that the criticism directed against her was unfair because the photos were from the past. When Lindsay said it was not a good look that Kirkconnell had attended a party celebrating the antebellum South, Harrison said, “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 in response. "If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"
In his interview with Strahan, Harrison renounced his previous statements, saying that antebellum parties — which celebrate a time period in the South during which slavery was present — were not OK in the "past, present, future."
Lindsay deactivated her Instagram account after becoming the target of online harassment over her interview with Harrison.
Harrison pleaded with people to stop harassing Lindsay.
"I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry to Rachel Lindsay and to the Black community," Harrison said. "To anyone who is throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay, please stop."
As for his return to "The Bachelor" series, Harrison said he hoped to come back with a renewed sense of change.
"This franchise can be an important beacon of change," he said. "I know that change is felt, not just by me, but by many others. And we are excited and willing to do the work to show that progress."
In the meantime, Harrison said he was seeking guidance from a "race educator and strategist," who is teaching him how to learn from this experience and move forward.
He added that his "GMA" interview was "not the finish line."
"There is much more work to be done," he said.