Amid his ongoing controversy, Chris Harrison will sit out next season of “The Bachelorette,” Variety has learned.
Harrison will be temporarily replaced by rotating fan-favorite alums from the franchise, including former “Bachelorette” stars Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe.
Beyond next season of “The Bachelorette,” no permanent decision regarding Harrison’s future with the franchise has been determined, at this point, according to numerous sources close to the show. Two people familiar with production say that strategy conversations have been ongoing, constantly evolving and remain fluid.
“Chris Harrison will not be hosting the next season of ‘The Bachelorette.’ We support Chris in the work that he is committed to doing,” according to a joint statement from ABC Entertainment and Warner Horizon, obtained by Variety.
“In his absence, former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will support the new Bachelorette through next season,” the statement continues. “As we continue the dialogue around achieving greater equity and inclusion within ‘The Bachelor’ franchise, we are dedicated to improving the BIPOC representation of our crew, including among the executive producer ranks. These are important steps in effecting fundamental change so that our franchise is a celebration of love that is reflective of our world.”
Cameras are set to start rolling sometime next week, three sources say, and given COVID-19 regulations, the cast and crew are mandated to quarantine on-location where “The Bachelorette” will be filmed in a sequestered bubble.
Adams and Bristowe are currently quarantined on-site, along with the contestants for the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette,” which Variety previously reported is expected to star Katie Thurston, who competed in Matt James’ current season of “The Bachelor.”
Neither Adams nor Bristowe will be named “host” or “co-host,” Variety hears, indicating that their roles are not permanent gigs — in other words, the door has been left open for Harrison’s future. While Harrison’s role for upcoming remains in limbo, the situation has been described by sources as a “wait-and-see” approach.
Harrison has been in the middle of an escalating scandal for perpetuating racism through his commentary defending controversial “Bachelor” contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who came under fire when old photos of her emerged on social media, showing her in attendance at an Old South plantation-themed fraternity party. She also liked pictures on social media containing the confederate flag, and was accused on TikTok of bullying a classmate for dating a Black man.
Kirkconnell, who remains a frontrunner on the current season of “The Bachelor,” has since apologized, stating, “I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
The controversy hit a boiling point when Harrison sat down for an interview on “Extra” with former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay, going to great lengths to speak out against the “woke police” and suggesting that Kirkconnell’s photos were not offensive when they were taken in 2018.
“The picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party … that’s not a good look,” Lindsay said during the interview with Harrison. Harrison became defensive and replied, “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. “If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”
Harrison had previously announced that he would be “stepping aside” from the franchise for an undisclosed period of time in the wake of the controversy. In an interview on “Good Morning America” earlier this month, Harrison told Michael Strahan that he planned to return as host.
“I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to the progress not just for myself, but also for the franchise,” Harrison told Strahan, who then said live on-air, “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.”
This upcoming Monday’s “After the Final Rose” will be hosted by Emmanuel Acho, who is stepping in to replace Harrison for the special episode, which will address the racist controversy, and the show’s handling of race and diversity. James, who is the first-ever Black star of “The Bachelor,” took to social media during this week’s episode to speak out against “dangerous stereotypes” perpetuated in media. James also released a statement, in light of the controversy, explaining that the situation had caused him to “reevaluate and process what my experience on ‘The Bachelor’ represents.”
“The Bachelorette” Season 17, with Adams and Bristowe, is expected to debut in the spring.
Adams recently starred as “The Bachelorette” in the season that aired in 2020. She stepped in for original star Clare Crawley, who left her season early after finding love. Adams, who is now engaged after meeting Zac Clark on the dating show, has expressed interest in television hosting, and recently guest-hosted “Entertainment Tonight.”
Bristowe was first introduced to Bachelor Nation as a contestant on Chris Soules’ season of “The Bachelor,” then becoming “The Bachelorette” for Season 11 in 2015. She is one of the most popular “Bachelor” alums of all time, and has remained in the ABC family, recently competing and winning Season 29 of “Dancing With the Stars.”