NEW YORK -- "It was a mistake. I made a mistake," embattled "Bachelor" host Chris Harrison said in his first interview since stepping aside from the franchise for defending the racist actions of a contestant.
Harrison came under fire after an "Extra" interview with the first Black "Bachelorette" Rachel Lindsay when he was asked about racially insensitive past behavior from contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, which included attending an antebellum plantation themed ball and liking a photo showing the Confederate flag. In the February interview, Harrison defended Kirkconnell against what he called the "woke police" on social media. "We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion," he said.
The TV personality later apologized for the comments, said he was "ashamed" for his handling of a swirling racial controversy and announced he was "stepping aside" from the ABC dating show.
In Harrison's exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" Thursday, anchor Michael Strahan pointed out that this season was supposed to be a "turning point" for the show as it featured Matt James, the first Black "Bachelor" in the franchise's two decades on air. Now, Strahan said, it's overshadowed by racism.
"Why would you defend Rachael Kirkconnell?" Strahan continued.
"I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake, and I own that," Harrison answered. "I believe that mistake doesn't reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to progress -- not just for myself -- also for the franchise."
Still, Harrison emphasized that he plans to return to host "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette."
"I plan to be back and want to be back," he said. "This interview is not the finish line. There is much more work to be done, and I am excited to be a part of that change."
Strahan pointed to a part of the "Extra" interview when Harrison and Lindsay discussed the antebellum party.
"Is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference," Harrison had asked Lindsay.
"It's not a good look ever," Lindsay said. "If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"
In Thursday's "GMA" interview, Harrison conceded that those parties are never acceptable, especially considering slavery's role in the antebellum South.
He also said he was "saddened and shocked" by how "insensitive" he was toward Lindsay in that interview. Since Harrison announced his stepping away from the franchise, Lindsay had become a target of intense harassment and had since deactivated her Instagram account.
"I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry. I'm sorry to Rachel Lindsay, and I'm sorry to the Black community," he said. "To anyone who is throwing hate toward Rachel Lindsay, please stop. It is unacceptable."
Harrison said he does not view himself as a victim in this situation and said he is working closely with a "race educator and strategist" and scholars like Michael Eric Dyson.
"Dr. Dyson often talks to me about counsel, not cancel, and that is full accountability, understanding what you didn't understand, owning that, learning from that, seeking counsel -- often in the community that you hurt -- learning from them, listening, gaining experience, knowledge, and moving forward," he said.