EXCLUSIVE: "It was a mistake." #TheBachelor host Chris Harrison apologizes for defending frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist social media posts, telling @michaelstrahan he is an "imperfect man" who is "committed to progress." https://t.co/OfPBBzGd9s pic.twitter.com/0EgbKV99DV— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 4, 2021
March 4 (UPI) -- Chris Harrison plans to return to The Bachelor after stepping away from the franchise in February.
Harrison stepped aside from The Bachelor last month after "speaking in a way that perpetuates racism in an interview with Lindsay on Extra. In the interview, Harrison defended Bachelor Season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, who later apologized for "offensive and racist" past actions.
On GMA, Harrison said he was wrong to defend Kirkconnell, whose social media history included photos of her attending an "Old South" plantation-themed party in 2018 and liking racist posts.
"I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake and I own that," Harrison said. "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. And this is a franchise that has been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years and I love it."
Harrison had questioned in his interview with Lindsay if the antebellum party was "a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference." On GMA, Harrison walked back his comments and denounced such events.
"I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay," the star said.
"I didn't say it then and I want to say it now: those parties are not okay, past, present, future," he added. "And I didn't speak from my heart. And that is to say that I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry to Rachel Lindsay and the Black community."
Harrison said he's spoken to "leading scholars, teachers, faith leaders" and a race educator and strategist since stepping away from The Bachelor. He ultimately plans to return to the franchise.
"I plan to be back and I want to be back. And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change," Harrison 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."
Bachelor executive producers voiced their support for Lindsay in a statement Monday after Lindsay deleted her Instagram account after experiencing "hate" and "online bullying" following her interview with Harrison.
The Bachelor is in its 25th season on ABC. The season stars Matt James, the first Black Bachelor to appear on the show.