On Feb. 9, all the things modified for Chris Harrison. The affable, controversy-free host of “The Bachelor” sat down with former “Bachelorette” star Rachel Lindsay on “Extra.” When requested a easy query about “Bachelor” winner Rachael Kirkconnell, whose former plantation celebration photographs re-surfaced on social media, Harrison went to nice lengths to defend the racially-insensitive, controversial contestant in a long-winded change. As the state of affairs exploded in backlash over social media, that interview was the start of a domino impact that might in the end derail the veteran host’s 19-year tenure with the ABC franchise.
The strangest factor about the complete state of affairs? Harrison was by no means even requested to take part within the “Extra” interview.
More from Variety
Multiple insiders inform Variety that Harrison participated within the interview on his personal volition, however was by no means requested by a community or studio publicist to sit down down for the press alternative. When Lindsay requested a par-for-the-course query about Kirkconnell, the “Extra” correspondent didn’t push Harrison to elaborate and she or he wasn’t anticipating Harrison to dive in. But he did, head first — and with a crash touchdown.
The following story is the results of interviews with quite a few individuals aware of what occurred behind-the-scenes, main as much as Harrison’s departure. All of the people who spoke to Variety did so beneath the situation of anonymity both as a result of they nonetheless work with “The Bachelor” franchise or as a result of they’re too carefully related to state of affairs surrounding Harrison. But by their accounts, what turns into clear is that, even after the veteran host’s tone-deaf commentary, the complete state of affairs was utterly repairable — and avoidable.
ABC and Warner Bros. declined to remark for this story. Harrison’s authorized representatives additionally declined to remark, and his brokers by no means responded to Variety request for remark.
Contrary to earlier press studies, Variety has realized that Harrison’s exit bundle was not a big eight-figure payout. Instead, he obtained roughly $10 million — a mixture of a $9 million exit settlement, plus remaining contractual charges — upon leaving the job he held since 2002.
So, what actually occurred?
After the “Extra” interview aired, Lindsay was surprised by Harrison’s response and was anticipating a canned response. The interview lasted nearly 14 minutes, and she or he felt like she couldn’t get a phrase in. Lindsay declined to remark for this text, however talking on her “Higher Learning” podcast, she confirmed that no publicist accompanied Harrison in the course of the interview, and stated that he “talked over and at me.” Lindsay recalled: “He wasn’t trying to hear it. He was just trying to be heard.”
After the interview hit the web, the requires Harrison’s job had been rapid. Social media was blowing up with swift criticism in opposition to Harrison, and information retailers coated his faux-pas in full drive. While everybody appeared to note the severity of Harrison’s defensive commentary, the one particular person didn’t determine the magnitude of the scandal? Harrison himself.
According to a small handful of individuals aware of the state of affairs, Harrison was not conscious of how a lot consideration his response was receiving, and didn’t understand simply how problematic the tv interview would turn into.
On her podcast in February, Lindsay stated that Harrison “had no problems” with the interview and texted her saying that he “appreciated the conversation.”
As quickly because the interview aired, social media erupted and ABC and Warner Bros. realized they’d a giant drawback on their fingers. The community and studio panicked on the public response and went into fast injury management. In the rapid days following his interview, Harrison spoke to bigwigs inside the franchise, who took an open approach. Harrison was by no means instructed that he’d be fired from his longtime place; in reality, any consideration of him being terminated was not even addressed in preliminary conversations. Instead, the talks revolved round Harrison apologizing, educating himself on race points and making correct amends to individuals who had been damage by his feedback inside the franchise.
Harrison made his first public apology on Instagram the day after his “Extra” interview, apologizing for “perpetuating racism” and stating, “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.”
Immediately after, the feminine contestants from Season 25 of “The Bachelor” banded collectively to take a united stand in opposition to racism, whereas showing to knock Harrison’s preliminary apology.
“We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism,” the forged collectively posted on social media. “Rachel Lindsay continues to advocate with ‘grace’ for individuals who identify as BIPOC within this franchise. Just because she is speaking the loudest, doesn’t mean she is alone.”
Two days later, Harrison introduced he’d be “stepping aside” from the franchise for an undisclosed time frame, writing, “I have consulted with Warner Bros. and ABC…and will not join for the ‘After the Final Rose’ special…I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before.”
Emmanuel Acho was tapped to visitor host “After the Final Rose” in lieu of Harrison. At that time, insiders say the plan was nonetheless for Harrison to ultimately come again as host, although he would want to take a break to place within the work and educate himself earlier than returning.
But the backlash in opposition to Harrison by no means stopped.
In late February, Matt James, the primary Black star of “The Bachelor,” made his personal assertion, posting on his social media: “Chris’ failure to receive and understand the emotional labor that my friend Rachel Lindsay was taking on by graciously and patiently explaining the racist history of the Antebellum South, a painful history that every American should understand intimately, was troubling and painful to watch.”
Ivan Hall, a contestant from Tayshia Adams’ season who garnered reward for his episode about Black Lives Matters, stated in a media interview that he wouldn’t take part in one other season, if Harrison was on board.
“Going forward, I honestly don’t know how this will all shake out,” Hall stated to E! News. “But for myself for example, if they have future shows and if they were to ask me to be on ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ or something like that — and I’m sure a lot of other contestants feel this way as well — I wouldn’t feel comfortable if Chris is there, to be quite frank.”
On March 4, “Good Morning America” aired a pre-taped interview between Harrison and anchor Michael Strahan. Prior to reserving the “GMA” sit-down, Harrison had employed a disaster administration publicist, Mike Sitrick, who beforehand represented Harvey Weinstein. (Today, Harrison is now not represented by Sitrick.) With his new illustration, Harrison was suggested to do a TV interview, insiders say, and when ABC was knowledgeable of that, the community requested the spot to be on “GMA” to maintain it within the household.
On-air, Harrison verbally owned as much as his errors, stated he’s dedicated to progress and introduced he has been working with race educator and strategist. He additionally instructed Strahan that he deliberate to return as host of “The Bachelor.”
After the interview wrapped, Strahan stated, stay on tv, “His apology is his apology, but it felt like I got nothing more than a surface response on any of this, and obviously he’s a man who wants to clearly stay on the show, but only time will tell if there’s any meaning behind his words.” Strahan’s off-the-cuff response was instantly praised on social media.
Harrison, seemingly anticipating a softball interview because the face of the community’s top-rated actuality franchise, was angered by the disastrous end result. And, so had been “Bachelor” executives, who had been perplexed by Harrison’s inflexible on-air efficiency, which got here off disingenuous.
At that time, it turned clear that Harrison would want to take an extended time-out, however the franchise was nonetheless planning on ultimately bringing him again, in keeping with sources. At the request of “Bachelor” executives, Harrison contacted a handful of former forged members to combined outcomes, which Variety has confirmed by a number of sources. The basic response from BIPOC forged members that Harrison had known as or texted was informing him that his apology can be accepted, however he would want to place within the work to coach himself earlier than he’d be welcomed again with open arms.
As all this was brewing, there was one other main roadblock for Harrison. In March, present “Bachelorette” Katie Thurston flat-out refused to star in her season if Harrison was the host.
“I stand with other alumni who have expressed that learning and growth require time,” Thurston had tweeted amid the media spectacle. “I hope that Chris Harrison continues to take more time to step away while sincerely educating himself and dedicating himself to the work. We can all grow and do better with time, and I hope he does.”
Insiders aware of discussions say that Thurston spoke to Harrison instantly, informing him that she wouldn’t really feel snug starring as “The Bachelorette” if he was concerned resulting from all the controversy surrounding him. This dialog upset and damage Harrison, in keeping with an individual aware of their chat.
ABC and Warner Bros. declined to touch upon Thurston’s dialog with Harrison.
By mid-March, ABC and Warner Bros. introduced Harrison wouldn’t return for Thurston’s season of “The Bachelorette,” and that fan-favorite alums, Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe, would function visitor co-hosts. In their announcement, the community and studio left the door open, stating, “We support Chris in the work that he is committed to doing.”
Insiders near Harrison say that the veteran host deeply cared about Bachelor Nation and beloved his job. The total state of affairs took a toll on him, and he all the time deliberate on returning. His dedication to the franchise by no means wavered.
But ultimately, Harrison’s need to return to “The Bachelor” was overshadowed by the mess behind-the-scenes between his group and the studio and community. Harrison retained energy legal professional Bryan Freedman, who had lately represented Gabrielle Union in her dispute in opposition to “America’s Got Talent,” and negotiated a mega-million payout for Megyn Kelly when she left NBC News in early 2019. Freedman had additionally beforehand represented “The Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss’ spouse in her home violence allegations when she accused Fleiss of attacking her; however later, after a messy divorce settlement had been reached, the couple introduced their reconciliation.
Harrison’s legal professional was “outraged” by the dragging-out course of, an insider beforehand instructed Variety, and felt that ABC and Warner Bros. had been utilizing his consumer as a scapegoat for all the franchise’s range issues from the fact TV juggernaut’s inception.
Once manufacturing on Thurston’s season of “The Bachelorette” started, issues began to unravel additional. While Harrison’s legal professional was placing up a troublesome struggle, representing his consumer in opposition to the community and studio, Harrison was nonetheless beneath the impression he might make a comeback for the season. An insider near manufacturing reveals that after forged and crew had already been despatched to New Mexico to quarantine for “Bachelorette,” Harrison was primarily knocking on the door, asking to salvage his job by making calls to varied individuals on set, begging them to place in a great phrase for him.
In early June, Variety revealed a report that Harrison wouldn’t be returning to host “Bachelor in Paradise” and would get replaced by a slew of rotating superstar hosts, together with David Spade, however that his total future standing with the franchise nonetheless remained in limbo. An individual aware of Harrison’s negotiations says, on the level the article was revealed, it had been determined that there was “absolutely no chance” Harrison can be returning for this summer season’s season of “Bachelor in Paradise” and that the prospect of him returning to the franchise was “extraordinarily remote.” But, that specific article about “Bachelor in Paradise” set off Harrison and his internal circle, and ended up expediting the end-game for all events, in keeping with a number of sources.
Though Harrison had all the time needed to maintain his job, by that time, the injury was finished and the connection had soured, as drama hit an all-time excessive. His legal professional rapidly organized an exit deal, and the community and studio put negotiations on the quick observe.
Within a matter of days, Harrison had reached a authorized settlement to depart the franchise on his personal accord. Part of the settlement Harrison signed included the general public assertion of an amicable parting-of-ways, which is typical in most high-profile Hollywood departures.
Despite earlier studies, Harrison didn’t stroll away with a considerable eight-figure payout. Two people aware of the negotiations say that the host acquired $9 million, plus remaining contractual charges, which introduced his complete exit bundle to roughly $10 million — about the identical paycheck he would have constituted of two years of labor, as his contract was stated to be round $5 million per 12 months. (ABC, Warner Bros. and Harrison’s group all declined to touch upon Harrison’s exit or any monetary payout.)
However, identical to any “Bachelor” breakup, the parting of the way is civil — not less than on the floor. Or, in keeping with the authorized paperwork.
While Harrison’s sugar-coated announcement of his departure seems to be harmonious, at nearer look, the previous host fails to thank the studio or community, whereas ensuring to increase his gratitude to the followers.
“I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of ‘The Bachelor’ franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter,” Harrison stated in a press release final week. “I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together. While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime.”
Best of Variety