Rachel Lindsay has broken her silence regarding Chris Harrison's exit from The Bachelor franchise, admitting she didn't expect him to walk away from the beloved series for good following the racism scandal.
On the Tuesday, June 8, episode of Extra, Lindsay said she was surprised that the longtime host announced earlier in the day that he was officially leaving after he temporarily stepped back earlier this year.
"I gotta say, I am [shocked]. I wasn't expecting for it to happen," the former bachelorette told host Billy Bush, adding that fans can only "speculate" about the reasons for Harrison's exit.
"I think several past contestants coming forward and saying they didn't want him to be part of Paradise. I think Katie Thurston, her very last tweet before she went to film her season was that Chris needed to step away," Lindsay said referring to the season 17 Bachelorette lead. "I think that, coupled with the interview that happened on this very stage, maybe led to him not coming back."
OK! exclusively reported that producers were getting "clobbered" with requests from fans and former contestants for Harrison's permanent removal after he failed to denounce Matt James' front-running contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, for her past racially charged photos that resurfaced online.
The interview Lindsay was referring to was the one she had with Harrison after Kirkconnell's social media activity made headlines while season 25 of The Bachelor was airing. While Lindsay — the first Black lead in Bachelor history — and the embattled host discussed Kirkconnell's actions, Harrison defended the controversial contestant, telling Bachelor Nation to offer her some "grace" and "compassion."
After receiving backlash for his defensive attitude, Harrison apologized to Lindsay and called his commentary a "mistake." He then announced he would temporarily be stepping back as host.
On the Extra episode, the brunette beauty emphasized that she previously accepted Harrion's apology. "I still stand by that," Lindsay insisted. "I do. I think that's the way to move forward."
Meanwhile, she also speculated that Harrison's departure could be credited to a switch-up in the franchise after so many years with the 49-year-old. "Well, it's been 19 years and if you do watch the show we saw less and less of Chris. 19 years is a big accomplishment. Maybe that's the case," she said. "We don't know. Maybe they were ready to move on."
Hours before Harrison confirmed his permanent exit from the beloved reality dating show, saying he is "excited to start a new chapter," OK! reported that he was set to receive a huge payout if he agreed to step back from the franchise and keep quiet following his split from the series.
His announcement came months after he said on Good Morning America that he planned and wanted "to be back."