Former NFL football player Emmanuel Acho will step in as host of the special episode capping this season’s “The Bachelor,” after the series’ longtime host Chris Harrison temporarily stepped down after defending a contestant’s racist behavior.
Acho, author of last year’s New York Times bestseller “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” will lead the one-hour “The Bachelor: After the Final Rose” special, airing March 15 on ABC, when he will discuss the season with “Bachelor” star Matt James and his top three finalists.
James is the first Black lead of “The Bachelor” in the history of the popular series, which premiered in 2002 and is in its 25th season. During this season, the show has come under fire for giving female contestants of color less screen time compared to white contestants and for focusing the show on storylines centered around bullying by James’ white suitors for James rather than the romances.
One of the finalists, Rachael Kirkconnell, was criticized for appearing in a photo of her at a 2018 fraternity party celebrating the antebellum South, including its racist, slave-owning past.
Harrison defended Kirkconnell when he was asked about her delay in addressing allegations of racism in her past, including her attendance at the party, in an interview on the entertainment news program “Extra.” Harrison strongly pushed back, defending Kirkconnell and saying, “This judge-jury-executioner thing is tearing this girl’s life apart” and asked the interviewer to give Kirkconnell some “grace.”
“Is it a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021?” Harrison asked “Extra” correspondent Rachel Lindsay, who was also the first ever Black female lead to star in the history of “The Bachelorette,” in the interview. “Fifty million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that people went to. We are not looking under the same lens.”
Harrison repeatedly declined to condemn Kirkconnell’s actions or her failure to speak out about the controversy for weeks, at one point equating the plantation houses of the Old South with Confederate monuments. “Do you go tear all those places down and tear up the dirt and dig deep enough that it erases it? I don’t know,” he said, also referring to San Francisco’s recent decision to rename 44 of its schools. “The woke police is out there and this poor girl Rachael has just been thrown to the lions.”
“When is the time, and who is Rachel Lindsay and who is Chris Harrison and who is whatever woke police is out there?” he added, when pressed further on Kirkconnell’s silence. “I hear this all the time … ‘I think he should, I think she should.’ Who the hell are you? Who are you that you demand this?”
His response deflecting attention from Kirkconnell’s actions, prompted an outcry from former contestants on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” including some who called for Harrison to step down as host. Harrison, in a subsequent apology, said he “will be stepping aside for a period of time” and not host “After the Final Rose.”
After Harrison’s interview, Kirkconnell later apologized for her actions, saying that at one point she didn’t realize how offensive and racist her actions were, but “that doesn’t excuse them.”