Anyone who denies that cancel culture is real needs only to look at this week’s downfall of longtime host of “The Bachelor” Chris Harrison for proof that this societal infectious disease is very much alive.
Harrison stepped away from Bachelor Nation, a series of shows he has hosted since its inception nearly 20 years ago, on Sunday with a lengthy apology that read like a hostage letter. This followed an interview with former “Bachelorette” star Rachael Lindsay that many have termed “controversial.”
“I have spent the last few days listening to the pain my words have caused, and I am deeply remorseful,” Harrison wrote on Instagram to his 1.3 million followers. “My ignorance did damage to my friends, colleagues, and strangers alike. I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke. … To the Black community, to the BIPOC community: I am so sorry. My words were harmful. I am listening, and I truly apologize for my ignorance and any pain it caused you. I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the people from these communities who I’ve had enlightening conversations with over the past few days, and I am so grateful to those who have reached out to help me on my path to anti-racism.”
With that note that reads like struggle session propaganda, the host was gone. Peripheral observers might think Harrison engaged in some nefarious behavior or uttered an egregious racial slur. His fall from grace, however, occurred not because of something he did but because of his plea for grace for someone else.
Harrison became a victim of cancel culture for talking back to it, for simply refusing to join the mob coming for a young woman on this season of “The Bachelor.” When the political correctness police came for 24-year-old season frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell over a years-old sorority photograph, Harrison pled only for honest dialogue and for the contestant to be heard before people indict her as a racist.
Kirkconnell became a topic of controversy after a viral TikTok depicted her many societal “sins,” including having Republican parents, supporting law enforcement, and sharing content from conservative nonprofit PragerU. Critics later dug up a 2018 photo of Kirkconnell at an “Old South” sorority party, showing nothing more than the girl dressed up in a pink hoop dress taking a selfie with two friends. This photograph became the topic of conversation between Harrison and Lindsay on an episode of “Extra.”
What Chris Harrison Actually Said
“I’m not defending it. I didn’t go to it,” Harrison said of the antebellum era-inspired party, which he called clearly problematic when viewed through the lens of 2021 while also noting that our cultural sensitivity looked different just a few years ago. He then called for Lindsay and others to wait on passing judgment until they hear from Kirkconnell herself:
I haven’t talked to Rachael about it, and this is again where we all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, and executioner thing —where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into her parents and her parents’ voting record. It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. 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?
Lindsay, who was the franchise’s first black bachelorette, pushed back, insisting that if it had been a photo of herself in question, she would have spoken out and cleared things up immediately. Harrison replied, “It’s a slippery slope,” because you can’t please everyone and can’t appease all the people who come swinging for you.
“The woke police is out there, and this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions. I don’t know how you are equipped, when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this,” Harrison, a known Republican who receives flak from both sides of the political aisle, continued.
“Who is Rachel Lindsay? And who is Chris Harrison? And whatever woke police person out there — who are you? And I’ve heard this a lot of like, ‘I think she should…,’ ‘I think he should…’ Who the h-ll are you? Who are you that you demand this?” Harrison asked rhetorically. Lindsay once again inserted herself, setting what she would do in this situation as the standard of decency.
“I think [Kirkconnell] will be able to give an eloquent-enough reason for most reasonable people,” Harrison said. “But reasonable people aren’t on social media, and that’s who you’re dealing with.” The 13-minute interview segment is worth watching in its entirety:
Harrison was right in his diagnosis. Based on a simple sorority selfie, the social media mob has devoured Kirkconnell, and now they’ve devoured the devoted “Bachelor” host. Lindsay tore into him the following day on a podcast, this season’s cast condemned his remarks, and the internet went crazy with a petition calling for the beloved host’s permanent removal.
Kirkconnell then took up the torch, issuing a lengthy apology in which she declared, “My ignorance was racist.” She continued: “As I was thinking about what I wanted to say, I couldn’t help but think about how sick people must be of reading these kinds of statements.” Kirkconnell was oh so right, but not for the reason she thinks.
Cancel Culture Is an Endless Cycle
People are sick of reading these kinds of statements. Millions of people are watching Kirkconnell week after week fall deeper in love with the first black bachelor, yet she has to recite critical race theory talking points and grovel on the internet for forgiveness from nameless, faceless people over a college photograph of herself dressed up in frilly dresses worn during a bygone era that regrettably embraced slavery.
Can we not, as Harrison pleaded, please just take a step back here and consider all the available information? Kirkconnell is free to handle the criticism of her past in whatever manner she deems appropriate and then deal with the consequences, but she’s right that we’re tired of gratuitous statements apologizing for not being devoted enough to identity politics and for committing to be “anti-racist,” which implies much more than simply rejecting racism and signals continued displays of social media prostration.
In this Harrison situation, however, which is far more significant than Kirkconnell’s past and token apology, reasonable people should be mortified that someone like Harrison could be taken out of the game merely for pumping the brakes on cancel culture and asking for grace.
Chris Harrison didn’t own slaves. He didn’t go to an “Old South” sorority party or hurl racial epithets. He didn’t endorse racism or encourage it. The only thing Harrison is guilty of is being the lone voice in a room of social justice warriors high on their own self-righteousness, willing to create space for a young and imperfect woman to explain herself.
Cancel culture is the great cancer of our generation, and with every successful silencing of dissent, it metastasizes. Harrison was right in calling it “unbelievably alarming.” The last thing our diseased culture needs is for the few brave people willing to stand athwart the cancel culture craze to be canceled — yet that phenomenon confirms the power of the mob in sad irony.
“The problem is when you’re trying to react to something on social media, there is no grace, there’s no understanding,” Harrison said. Nevertheless, the mob pressure led him straight to a social media apology himself.
Chris Harrison was right about cancel culture, and it came for him.