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Chris Harrison exits 'The Bachelor' franchise after defending former contestant's racist behavior

Harrison stepped aside from his role in February after defending a contestant who was shown in past photos attending an antebellum plantation-themed party.
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Chris Harrison is permanently exiting ABC's reality dating series "The Bachelor" after coming under fire earlier this year for defending a contestant's past racist behavior.

“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,” Warner Horizon and ABC Entertainment said in a statement sent to NBC News on Tuesday.

He said he was excited to start a new chapter after an "incredible run" as host of the franchise in a statement posted to his Instagram.

"I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together," Harrison said. "While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime."

Harrison, who has hosted the popular franchise for nearly 20 years, stepped aside from his role in February after he defended former "Bachelor" contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who was shown in photos attending an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018. Harrison made the comments defending Kirkconnell during an "Extra" interview with former "Bachelorette" Rachel Lindsay.

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 attended a party celebrating the antebellum South — a time period when slavery was present — 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, who is Black, said in response. "If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"

Harrison, who is white, later admitted that he had "made a mistake" in an interview with ABC News' "Good Morning America."

"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 said in his interview that 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 departure was "not the finish line."

"There is much more work to be done," he said.

His departure came within a day of the premiere of the 17th season of "The Bachelorette," which aired on Monday. The show is currently being guest hosted by former Bachelorettes' Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe.