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'Bachelor' host Chris Harrison apologizes after defending controversial contestant's actions

"Bachelor" franchise host Chris Harrison announced on social

"Bachelor" franchise host Chris Harrison announced on social media: "I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology." Credit: Getty Images for GOOD+ Foundation / Andrew Toth

"The Bachelor" host Chris Harrison apologized Wednesday for an interview in which he assailed "the woke police" for criticizing current-season front-runner Rachael Kirkconnell, who has been accused of "liking" racist social-media posts and of having attended an Antebellum-themed party in 2018.

"To my Bachelor Nation family — I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology," Harrison, 49, wrote on social media, following his interview Tuesday with "Extra" correspondent Rachel Lindsay, who in 2017 became the first African-American star of the sister series "The Bachelorette."

"I have this incredible platform to speak about love, and yesterday I took a stance on topics about which I should have been better informed," Harrison continued. "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. What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry."

In the interview, which focused on an Old South college-party photo that surfaced Jan. 4 on social media, Harrison said he hasn't yet heard the 24-year-old Kirkconnell address the issue. "Until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this? I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago," he said of the 2018 event, "and that's it. Like, boom," he described the public judgment.

He added, "These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time. They were 18 years old," he asserted, though Kirkconnell was then at least 21. "Now, does that make it OK? I don't know, Rachel, you tell me. But where is this lens we're holding up, and was that lens available and were we all looking through it in 2018?"

When Lindsay, 35, noted, "Well, it's been six weeks" since the photo and related allegations emerged, Harrison retorted, "When is the time, and who is Rachel Lindsay, and who is Chris Harrison, and who is whatever woke-police person out there … who the hell are you? Who are you that you demand opinions?"

His comments met with immediate backlash. "The situation with Rachael Kirkconnell was bad enough" tweeted one person, "but @chrisbharrison's interview with @TheRachLindsay made it much worse. The fact that he would attempt to gaslight a Black woman that way about racism, was honestly repugnant."

Harrison's apologies Wednesday included one "to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a [firsthand] understanding of." He also thanked "Bachelor" fans "who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better."

Biracial "Bachelor" star Matt James, 29, who identifies as Black and is the show's first African-American star, told "Entertainment Tonight" earlier this month of the Kirkconnell controversy, "I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully she will have her time to speak on that."

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