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BY JACKIE STRAUSE | HollywoodReporter.Com

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The veteran host of the ABC franchise had stepped aside after a racism controversy ignited during the 2021 season of ‘The Bachelor.’

Chris Harrison has officially parted ways with The Bachelor franchise.

After stepping aside during the controversial 2021 season of The Bachelor, the host and producer — who has served as the face of the hit ABC and Warner Bros. TV franchise since 2002 — has exited his veteran role after reaching a confidential settlement and reportedly big payday, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The news comes one day after the premiere of the 17th season of The Bachelorette and amid an unsettled time for the reality dating series, which has been without its host since early February. Harrison announced that he was stepping aside from his role following an interview where he defended Rachel Kirkconnell — the front-runner of the then-airing historic season of The Bachelor with first Black Bachelor Matt James — when racially offensive behavior in her past resurfaced. Harrison offered two social media apologies following the Feb. 9 interview, including the announcement that he was taking an indefinite hiatus after consulting with ABC and Warner Bros. “I am dedicated to getting educated on a more profound and productive level than ever before. I want to ensure our cast and crew members, to my friends, colleagues and our fans: This is not just a moment, but a commitment to much greater understanding that I will actively make every day,” he vowed.

Former Bachelorette leads Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe were later tapped to step in as his replacements for Katie Thurston’s Bacheloretteseason, which premiered on Monday night. Bachelor in Paradise, meanwhile, is the next cycle to head into production and returns with its seventh season mid-August. The summer spinoff will reportedly be filling Harrison’s role with a rotating roster of guest hosts, with names including celebrity superfan David Spade having been recently reported. ABC, Warner Bros. and Harrison’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, declined to comment on the reports when reached by The Hollywood Reporter at the time, as the behind-the-scenes negotiations about Harrison’s future with the franchise remained ongoing.

Harrison has hosted The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and its many spinoffs since the Mike Fleiss-created franchise first launched. After his interview sparked widespread backlash, however, the franchise became embroiled in an ongoing racism controversy that ended up engulfing The Bachelor. James’ season was meant to be historic and reflect more inclusivity following backlash in 2020. Instead, the cycle exposed systemic issueswithin the reality series over its continued mishandling of race and lack of diversity among its decision-makers. Kirkconnell’s history, and Harrison’s initial defense of her behavior, resulted in more criticism and calls for inclusivity and change that only grew louder as the landmark 25th season played out.

On March 4, nearly one month after the firestorm was ignited, Harrison had said he planned to return as host, but did not specify when. He also revealed that he had been working with a race educator and strategist. As his future with the franchise continued to remain up in the air, Harrison retained power attorney Freedman later that month.

When announcing that Harrison would not return to host Thurston’s season of The Bachelorette, the executive producers said in their statement that they “support Chris in the work that he is committed to doing.” They also said they vowed to improve the BIPOC representation of its crew, including among the executive producer ranks, as they “continue the dialogue around achieving greater equity and inclusion within The Bachelor franchise.” When announcing Adams and Bristowe, the pair were called “mentors.” (Months later when the premiere episode aired, they were labeled as “co-hosts” on air.)

Even with Harrison’s future uncertain, ABC tripled down on the Warner Bros. TV and Next Entertainment-produced franchise. For the remainder of 2021, the Bachelor franchise will be taking over Monday nights for back-to-back TV seasons. Following the return to Paradise, which premieres Aug. 16, The Bachelorette returns in the fall with star Michelle Young, who was James’ runner-up and who will be the third Black Bachelorette, following Adams and Rachel Lindsay. A host or hosts for her season have yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, The Bachelor, which has yet to be officially renewed, typically returns in January, and the “seniors” spinoff, which has been putting out casting calls since the most recent Bachelor season, also remains in the works.

Paradise, which reunites former contestants from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and has been hosted by Harrison since it launched, was postponed for the 2020 summer season when productions shut down during the height of the pandemic. After filming COVID-safe “bubble” seasons with 2020’s The Bachelorette, 2021’s The Bachelor and the upcoming season of The Bachelorette with Thurston — which filmed at a resort in New Mexico and was the first cycle to not have Harrison as host — the producers behind the franchise will continue to apply its pandemic-era blueprint to future cycles.

The current star of the franchise, meanwhile, applauded the decision to have Adams and Bristowe step in as hosts when recently interviewed by THR. “I do think it’s beneficial to have previous Bachelorettes there to support the upcoming lead. There is so much that you think you know and you don’t. So, however they incorporate that, I think it’s so important to make sure that [the lead has] access to getting advice from any Bachelorette who has gone through it,” she said, when asked about how they should handle Young’s season.

She continued, “Being the Bachelorette is such a unique journey that not a lot of people understand. [Tayshia and Kaitlyn] have advice that they could give me that no other woman could. It was great to have women supporting women and have these great conversations throughout the entire process from start to finish. It’s all about the women supporting women and, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know that I could have done it.”

Amid widespread reports a deal was nearing, Deadline was first to confirm Harrison’s exit had been executed. ABC and Warner Bros. TV could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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