Amid Chris Harrison’s temporary dismissal from hosting the Bachelor franchise because of “excusing historical racism” in an interview last month, Matt James, the first Black Bachelor, expressed optimism that Harrison will be welcomed back to his job. Appearing on the Ringer’s Bill Simmons Podcast on Friday, James was asked about Harrison’s comments that perpetuated racism, which were said in defense of controversial contestant Rachael Kirkconnell. James admitted he was “sad to hear” what Harrison said and thought he was in “an alternate reality” while listening to the full interview. However, he also believes that Harrison is on the right track to return to the franchise. “Chris has outlined in his statement that he’s committed to putting in the work and he’s taking a step back, so I respect that,” James explained. “I hope that he does. I don’t think that anybody should be trying to cancel him. We should be calling him in to do that work that he outlined and wants to do. He’s taking a step back and committed to doing that. I look forward to seeing him doing that.”
Following Harrison’s dumpster fire of an Extra interview on February 9, which defended Kirkconnell’s history of racist and offensive behaviors, James said that he “he called me and apologized. We had a really good conversation.” He also hopes that by Harrison not hosting the upcoming Bachelorette season with Katie Thurston, it’ll “allow him time to work on himself.” Harrison, who has been the franchise’s host since 2002, has since apologized for his comments, calling himself an “imperfect man” who “made a mistake” during a March 4 interview on Good Morning America. “I believe that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for,” he continued. “I am committed to progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise.” Harrison will be replaced by former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe for Thurston’s season as he continues to be “excited and willing to do the work to show that progress,” whatever that progress is.