Ratings for the latest series premiere of the ABC dating show The Bachelorette have tanked following the exit of the show’s longtime host Chris Harrison, whom the cancel mob accused of racism after he defended a contestant who attended a sorority event featuring antebellum-style ball gowns.
The show returned to ABC without Harrison (replaced by series alums Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe), but it garnered the lowest premiere in the series’ history, according to Deadline:
Although the Season 17 premiere bowed to 3.59M viewers and a 0.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic, per early Nielsen Live+Same Day numbers, it marked the lowest premiere in the series’ history. The top-rated program in the 8-10 p.m. time slot, The Bachelorette premiere fell from its previous bow in October 2020 (4.76M, 1.3) by 24% in viewers and four-tenths in rating.
The controversy struck earlier this year after Harrison defended a contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, who years ago participated in a sorority event featuring Southern Belle-style ball gowns, which the left quickly deemed as racist “because they emulate the dress fashion that evokes traditional, pre-Civil War era plantation gowns.”
“I saw a picture of her at a sorority party five years ago, and that’s it. Like, boom,” Harrison told Extra. “I’m like, ‘Really?’”
“I’m not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to. And again, I’m not defending it. I didn’t go to it,” he continued, noting how many people were just “tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into her and her parents’ voting record.”
“It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this,” Harrison said. “I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this?”
Harrison ultimately spoke out against the “woke police” and called on people to have “a little grace, a little understanding, [and] a little compassion.” He received a wave of backlash following the interview, prompting an apology to Bachelor Nation.
“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 said in February social media post. “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.”
“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,” he explained, adding that he realized he instead caused harm by “wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.”
“And for that, I am so deeply sorry,” he said.”I also apologize to my friend Rachel Lindsay for not listening to her better on a topic she has a first-hand understanding of, and humbly thank the members of Bachelor Nation who have reached out to me to hold me accountable. I promise to do better.”
— Chris Harrison (@chrisbharrison) February 11, 2021
Kirkconnell also apologized for what she described as her “racist and offensive” actions.
Ultimately, Harrison announced he would temporarily step away from the show, but some contestants demanded his permanent removal.
“I don’t really think he should be allowed to return but it’s not up to me,” former contestant DeMario Jackson said. “My season was one of the most visible black seasons as far as the representation by African American males and women.”
“The things that have come to light within The Bachelor franchise this past week have just been eye-opening,” Tayshia Adams, who replaced Harrison as a co-host, said at the time. “And I want to talk about the interview that was had between Rachel Lindsay and Chris Harrison regarding some of the actions from a current contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell.”
“The photo that she was in is racist. The party that she attended: racist. Her actions have been racist. When there are blatant forms of racist acts, you cannot be defensive of it,” Adams continued. “It speaks volumes. And I just have to say, I am really hurt by this response.”
Harrison was ultimately removed from the show, receiving what was described as an “eight-figure payout from ABC.”
Notably, the show had been under fire for a lack of diversity and as a result, selected Matt James, its first black “Bachelor,” last year. Notably, Rachel Lindsay was cast as the first black Bachelorette in 2017.