In his first interview since temporarily stepping away as host of the ABC series, Harrison told Good Morning America's Michael Strahan that while there's "more work to be done," he's "excited" to be a part of the change for the franchise.
As Bachelor Nation fans may know, Harrison received backlash for defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell—who has been accused of liking a photo showing a Confederate flag as well as appearing at a 2018 antebellum plantation-themed party—in a Feb. 9 interview with Rachel Lindsay.
"I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake and I own that," Harrison told Strahan. "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. And this is a franchise that has been a part of my life for the better part of 20 years and I love it."
Harrison went on to publicly apologize to Lindsay. "I am saddened and shocked at how insensitive I was in that interview with Rachel Lindsay. I can't believe I didn't speak against antebellum parties, what they stand for," he said. "I didn't say it then and I want to say it now: Those parties are not OK, past, present, future. And I didn't speak from my heart. And that is to say that I stand against all forms of racism, and I am deeply sorry to Rachel Lindsay and to the Black community."
In recent days, Lindsay has deactivated her Instagram account after receiving a wave of negative comments from social media users. In his interview on GMA, Harrison spoke out against the criticism unfairly thrown at her.
"To anyone who is throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay, please stop," he said. "It's unacceptable."
Harrison, 49, also shared how he's been educating himself following his remarks. "I sought out leading scholars, teachers, faith leaders, people like Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who I am so grateful for, and I've also been working closely with a race educator and strategist. I thank them all," he said. "But Dr. Dyson often talks to me about council. 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."
As for his future in the franchise, Harrison isn't saying goodbye so soon. "I plan to be back and I want to be back. And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change," he told Strahan. "I know that change is felt, not just by me, but by many others. And we are excited and willing to do the work to show that progress."
"This interview is not the finish line," he noted. "There is much more work to be done. And I am excited to be a part of that change."
After the interview aired, Strahan weighed in on Harrison's comments. "His apology is his apology, but it felt like I got nothing more than a surface response on any of this," he said, "and obviously he's a man who wants to clearly stay on the show, but only time will tell if there's any meaning behind his words."
On Feb. 27, it was revealed that Emmanuel Acho will step in for Harrison as host of The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special, which is set to air on Monday, March 15.