The reality series host gave his first interview to Good Morning America and said admitted he made “a mistake” defending show frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racist social media posts. He said he’s been “working closely with a race educator” and others since the controversy unfolded — and said he plans to return to the show.
“It was a mistake,” Harrison, 49, said at the top of the interview. “I made a mistake.”
Asked why he defended Kirkconnell for liking a social media photo containing a Confederate flag and attending an “Old South” plantation-themed party in 2018, he said, “I made a mistake. I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that. 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, also for the franchise. And this is a franchise that has been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years and I love it.”
As for initially defending it, he now thinks, “Antebellum parties are not OK. Past, present, future, knowing what that represents is unacceptable.”
His defense of Kirkconnell was during an Extra interview conducted by the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay. He also apologized for the way he spoke over Lindsay during that conversation and didn’t listen to her.
“I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay,” he said. “I didn’t speak from my heart and that is to say I stand against all forms of racism. I am deeply sorry. I am sorry to Rachel Lindsay and I’m sorry to the Black community.”
Harrison said he apologized to Lindsay personally, he said. He also asked people who have been posting hateful messages on her social media pages, leading her to deactivate her Instagram, “Please stop. It is unacceptable.”
Harrison went on to say he’s “not a victim here. I made a mistake. I own that.” He said he’s “committed” to the work about better understanding racism and oppression.
“I sought out leading scholars, teachers, faith leaders, people like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who I am so grateful for, and I’ve also been working closely with a race educator and strategist. I thank them all,” Harrison said. “But Dr. Dyson often talks to me about counsel. Not cancel, and that is full accountability, understanding what you didn’t understand, owning that, learning from that, seeking counsel often in the community that you hurt, learning from them, listening, gaining experience, knowledge and moving forward.”
And after doing that work, he hopes to return to the show that he’s been the face of for nearly two decades.
“I plan to be back and I want to be back,” Harrison said. “And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change. 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.”
He continued, “This interview is not the finish line. There is much more work to be done. And I am excited to be a part of that change.”
The interview was conducted by GMA‘s Michael Strahan, who didn’t seem sold on what he heard.
“His apology is his apology, but it felt like I got nothing more than a surface response on any of this,” he said after the interview ran. “Obviously, he’s the man who wants to clearly stay on his show, but only time will tell if there is any meaning behind his words.”
The Bachelor finale, featuring the first Black Bachelor Matt James and the After the Final Rose special will air on March 15.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: