Chris Harrison officially exits The Bachelor franchise after 19 years in wake of racism controversy

Former Bachelor Colton Underwood shared his support for longtime host Chris Harrison as he leaves the franchise following backlash over his defense of a contestant who attended a plantation-themed party.

Underwood, who has recently come out as gay, posted a tribute to Harrison on his Instagram story Tuesday calling him a ‘Grade A human being.’

‘Thank you for being a friend, a stand up guy and a hell of a host,’ Underwood wrote. ‘Can’t wait to see what you do next.’ 

The Instagram tribute came as Warner Media and ABC Entertainment confirmed to Fox News that Harrison, 49, would not be returning as a host.

‘Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of The Bachelor franchise,’ the producers told Fox News in a statement. ‘We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey.’

Former Bachelor Colton Underwood, right, posted a tribute to longtime host Chris Harrison, left, on Tuesday as he leaves the franchise after nearly 20 years

Former Bachelor Colton Underwood, right, posted a tribute to longtime host Chris Harrison, left, on Tuesday as he leaves the franchise after nearly 20 years

Former Bachelor Colton Underwood, right, posted a tribute to longtime host Chris Harrison, left, on Tuesday as he leaves the franchise after nearly 20 years

Underwood's post called Harrison a 'Grade A human being,' a 'stand up guy and a hell of a host'

Underwood's post called Harrison a 'Grade A human being,' a 'stand up guy and a hell of a host'

Underwood’s post called Harrison a ‘Grade A human being,’ a ‘stand up guy and a hell of a host’

Harrison – who served as the host of The Bachelor and its spinoffs, The Bachelorette and The Bachelor in Paradise, since 2002 also wrote a goodbye post on his own Instagram page.

‘I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of The Bachelor franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter,’ he wrote. ‘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.’

He is walking away with an eight-figure payout following months of tense negotiations with WBTV and Disney-owned ABC television, according to Deadline.

The outlet said that Harrison’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, had threatened to unleash a swath of lawsuits against the franchise unless the host received sufficient severance pay. 

The mid-eight-figure payout comes with a promise to ‘keep his mouth shut’, per Deadline.

Deadline reports that Chris Harrison officially left his position on The Bachelor franchise on Tuesday, after serving as host for 19 years

Deadline reports that Chris Harrison officially left his position on The Bachelor franchise on Tuesday, after serving as host for 19 years

Harrison  defended contestant Rachael Kirkconnell after photos emerged of her at a 2018 Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal

Harrison  defended contestant Rachael Kirkconnell after photos emerged of her at a 2018 Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal

Deadline reports that longtime host Chris Harrison was officially left his position on The Bachelor franchise on Tuesday, after serving as host for 19 years. His departure comes after he faced intense backlash for defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell (right) after photos emerged of her at a 2018 Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal

Harrison’s departure comes roughly five months after he came under fire for an Extra interview in which he seemed to defend a contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, over 2018 photos that showed her participating in an Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal.

He said that in the February interview: ‘We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion’ toward Kirkconnell amid the turbulent times of the ‘woke police’ and cancel culture. 

‘I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing, where people are tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents’ voting record,’ he said. ‘It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this.’

‘I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet,’ Harrison continued. ‘And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this.’

Those comments sparked backlash online, and Harrison later took to Instagram to clarify his remarks.

‘While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,’ he wrote. ‘What I realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am deeply sorry.’

By Valentine’s Day, Harrison announced he would be ‘stepping aside for a period of time’ during the show’s first season to feature a black Bachelor.

Harrison apologized for his remarks in the interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in early March, admitting he was ‘insensitive’ and ‘made a mistake’ as he vowed to return to the reality show and ‘be part of the change’.

But his apology was dismissed by Strahan who suggested his contrition was just ‘surface’ and a ploy by his fellow ABC colleague to get his $8million a year job back.  

Harrison apologized in an interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in March, saying he was 'insensitive' and 'made a mistake' (above)

Harrison apologized in an interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in March, saying he was 'insensitive' and 'made a mistake' (above)

Harrison apologized in an interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in March, saying he was ‘insensitive’ and ‘made a mistake’ (above)

Former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe are now co-hosting the current Bachelorette season, and just last week, executives announced a rotating list of hosts for the franchise’s summer show, Bachelor in Paradise. 

Kirkconnell, meanwhile, received the final rose from Bachelor Matt James in the March 15 season finale, but in the ‘After the Rose’ special that night, James said he had cut things off.

The couple is now ‘trying to make it work,’ James told the Wall Street Journal last month, and are now planning to move in together, according to Page Six. 

James was reportedly ‘hesitant to publicly and outrightly confirm’ the relationship because it was ‘still fresh and they still have issues to work through,’ an unnamed source allegedly told Page Six .  

‘Rachael already faced scrutiny for her past, and now all eyes have shifted to Matt,’ the source said. ‘So he’s feeling pressure to set a good example for other black men.’ 

The couple was recently seen together in Miami and the Hamptons. 

Bachelor Matt James wound up choosing Kirkconnell in the season finale

Bachelor Matt James wound up choosing Kirkconnell in the season finale

Bachelor Matt James wound up choosing Kirkconnell in the season finale

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