Chris Harrison — Lake Highlands native and longtime host of The Bachelor and The Bachlorette — is speaking out following a two-year silence.
We haven’t been able to speak directly to Harrison since that happened, however, we first learned about the new podcast from Harrison’s cousin, Lakewood resident Kory Helfman.
“These first episodes are powerful because you get to hear both sides of their story,” Helfman says of episodes featuring both Harrison and his fiance journalist Lauren Zima.
Regarding why Harrison is telling his story now, two years later, Helfman explains that, for one, there are legal agreements that prevented his cousin from talking about certain things, so that was a consideration, plus, “he needed a full year, at least, to just recover his mental health.”
Harrison and Zima, who he calls LZ, spend a couple of hours recalling a period after Harrison came under fire for appearing to defend historical racism.
In case you missed that, the Lake Highlands High School alum and romance novelist — in an interview answer he has admitted was a mistake and for which he has apologized — expressed compassion for a Bachelor contestant who participated in a southern-states plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018.
Harrison’s tell-all podcast premiered January 8 on iHeartradio with an episode called “It’s time we talk.”
“I’d like to say I wish I had done this sooner, but I am not sure it would have mattered,” he says in the show. “I have not spoken publicly since I left the Bachelor franchise … none of what has been reported came from me. When there is that much noise, me talking would just be more noise. You would not have heard it. And selfishly, I needed time.”
To sum up the early days of the scandal, interviewer and first Black Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay was ostensibly hurt by Harrison’s seeming dismissal of the racist party pics.
A section of the public demanded Harrison’s head, in some cases literally, to hear he and his fiancée tell it. Harrison and those in his life were pretty shaken by the fallout.
Zima — who says she was initially angry with her man after giving interview answers that just were not like himself — talks about how she worried during the months she watched him lose weight and endure sleepless nights as the court of public opinion convicted him of racism, as he resigned from his job of two decades and as she, in her role at Entertainment Tonight saw story after negative story about the man she loves. The multiple-Emmy-winning reporter also speaks a bit about how she wound up giving up a couple of gigs she really enjoyed, including the popular After the final rose Bachelor-related podcast.
She adds that she never saw Harrison worry about himself or his career but rather about his family and the people close to him.
She says she has regrets about how she advised him at the time.
For example, Harrison’s brother wrote a supportive letter on Facebook, but for the Harrison family’s own good, Zima and Harrison asked him to delete it. Asking his brother to take down that very kind expression of support really tore Harrison’s heart out, he said in the show, and Zima became emotional after hearing Harrison talk about that.
Another regret she expressed was that, amid the chaos, she ultimately put out a statement that was less supportive than the first one she wrote. All these things were at the advice of crisis PR folks, who were likely just offering their best guesses on how to handle the situation.
As she navigated unfamiliar terrain, Zima says she made mistakes, but never considered splitting up.
The reaction to the podcast is mixed but leans supportive. Most reviewers on Apple podcasts express sympathy for Harrison and say they’re happy to hear about his experience, while a few think he’s just a millionaire with a victim complex.
In the third and fourth episodes, callers ask their questions, which follow the same basic pattern as the public reviews. Most are supportive and curious about what he will do next (this podcast is the only plan for now, he says). A few are biting. Caller Jen calls the first episodes “insufferable” and wonders why Harrison thinks anyone wants to hear from him. To his credit, Harrison takes those questions right along with the more flattering ones. (And to her credit, LZ cracks up good-naturedly at the meanest questions.)
The series is going to be about relationships, Harrison says to caller Jen, but in order to have the communication required in solid relationships, he’s going to need to break his silence. And that’s why he spends time talking about himself.
As LZ says of the lessons learned throughout the ordeal, “You’re never going to make everybody happy.”
Harrison’s cousin and friend, also the owner of Preston Hollow’s Ken’s Man Shop, an upscale and highly personalized men’s clothier, says that when they go out together in Dallas, people always come up and express their love for the Lake Highlands native turned host of the trailblazing reality show. Helfman won’t be giving up on his friend and relative anytime soon.
“I love my cousin to the end of the world,” he says. He is one of the nicest, most generous, honest and deepest integrity man that I know.”
The podcast is a free listen on any of the typical platforms. There are now nine episodes.