On the Feb. 15 episode of his Taking It Out podcast, Bryan Abasolo reacted to Chris Harrison's interview with Rachel Lindsay, which aired on Extra on Feb. 9 and led to the host taking a step back from the franchise. "Chris Harrison is someone that I respected highly and I'm not gonna lie, I definitely lost respect for him after watching that interview," Abasolo told his co-host and fellow Bachelorette contestant Mike Johnson. "I thought what he said was irresponsible, it was hurtful and it was just flat-out unacceptable."
Abasolo continued, "Now, we're not talking about past contestants of the show, who pretty much come and go, right? We're talking about the face of this franchise, 20-plus years of this man being on our television screens on a show that's been needing a diversity makeover for years, I don't think anybody's going to deny that."
Though Abasolo said he believed Bachelor Nation "started turning a corner" back in 2017 when Lindsay was selected as the first Black Bachelorette, he felt the last-minute selection of Tayshia Adams felt disingenuous. "And then 2020 happens, and there's this mad scramble to finally get it right, which may have been a knee-jerk reaction to get it right," he said of ABC's decision to do a joint season led by Clare Crawley (who is white and Latina) and Adams (who is Black and Latina) in the wake of the national protests against racism in the wake of George Floyd's murder. Johnson agreed, saying, "It was a very opportunistic reaction."
Abasolo added, "And then Chris comes out and says this, and to me it makes me wonder like, 'Damn, is this how everyone on the top feels?' I hope that isn't the case, but this is the figurehead. Is this the sentiment that we are trying to overcome, still in 2021?"
Harrison made waves when he and Lindsay discussed Rachael Kirkconnell, a current contestant on The Bachelor who has a history of "liking" racially charged Instagram posts and who attended a plantation-themed "Old South" party in 2018. “We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion. Because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents, her parents’ voting record,” Harrison said.
When Lindsay noted that Kirkconnell had failed to make a statement about her views and behavior after weeks of controversy, Harrison asked, “Who is Rachel Lindsay and who is Chris Harrison and who is whatever woke police person out there, who are you [to tell her to speak out]? ... I’ve heard this a lot of, ‘I think she should,’ ‘I think he should.’ Who the hell are you? Who are you that you demand that?”
Harrison has since apologized twice. "By excusing historical racism, I defended it. I invoked the term 'woke police,' which is unacceptable. I am ashamed over how uninformed I was. I was so wrong," he wrote in an Instagram statement on Feb. 13.
He also announced he's temporarily stepping down from his position as host, though Abasolo is hesitant to accept his apology. "Quite frankly, the apology ... I thought it was weak, not gonna lie," Abasolo said. "You said everything you've said in public, I believe that it should be standard that you should apologize by showing your face and speaking in public the same as your words were aired in public when you said them."
Abasolo hopes Harrison continues to educate himself and his followers. "We need to see the growth," he said. "You have too big of a platform and you're too big of an influencer for you not to lead by example in this situation. I just pray that we see that evolution from him play out for everyone to see."
Meanwhile, Kirkconnell has issued a public apology of her own. "At one point, I didn't recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn't excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist," she wrote in an Instagram statement on Feb. 12.
Hopefully, Harrison and Kirkconnell will follow through with additional, meaningful steps to right their wrongs soon.