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Chris Harrison 1st interview since stepping away from ‘The Bachelor’

Chris Harrison is speaking out for the first time since stepping aside from the franchise last month.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" co-host Michael Strahan, the embattled "Bachelor" host addressed the comments he made defending current "Bachelor" contestant and front-runner Rachael Kirkconnell, whose past racist social media posts showed her "liking" a photo containing a Confederate flag and attending an "Old South" plantation-themed party in 2018.

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"I am an imperfect man, I made a mistake and I own that," Harrison told "Good Morning America." "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 found himself in hot water when he told former "Bachelorette" Rachel Lindsay in a Feb. 9 interview she conducted with him on "Extra" that people should give Kirkconnell some "grace" and alluded to Kirkconnell potentially being a victim of so-called "cancel culture."

"People are just tearing this girl's life apart," Harrison told Lindsay. "I'm like, 'Really?'"

When Lindsay said Kirkconnell's 2018 photos at an Old South antebellum party weren't a good look, Harrison responded, "Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference."

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"It's not a good look ever because she's celebrating the Old South," Lindsay replied. "If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?"

In his interview with "GMA," Harrison walked back on those previous comments when Strahan pressed him on whether there is a difference between Kirkconnell's photos not being a good look in 2018 or 2021.

"There is not," Harrison replied. "Antebellum parties are not OK. Past, present, future, knowing what that represents is unacceptable."

Since the interview, former "Bachelorette" star Lindsay has been vocal about Harrison's comments and how it played out.

"During that conversation, he spoke over me and he spoke at me," Lindsay said in her podcast, "Higher Learning With Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay." "During that conversation, his privilege was on display, he never gave me room to talk and he never gave me room to share my perspective, he wasn't trying to hear it, he just wanted to be heard."

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Harrison said he has apologized to Lindsay, but in recent weeks, Lindsay has been a target online of intense harassment and bullying. As a result, she deactivated her Instagram account.

"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," said Harrison. "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."

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"To anyone who is throwing hate towards Rachel Lindsay, please stop," implored Harrison. "It's unacceptable."

Harrison says he's been seeking guidance since the whole controversy unfolded.

"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," said Harrison. "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."

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As for "The Bachelor" franchise, of which Harrison has hosted several spin-offs including "Bachelor in Paradise," "The Bachelor Winter Games" and "The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart," Harrison hopes to come back.

"I plan to be back and I want to be back. And I think this franchise can be an important beacon of change," said Harrison. "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 added. "There is much more work to be done. And I am excited to be a part of that change."

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