‘Bachelor’ Stars Want Answers on Chris Harrison’s Exit and Big Payout: ‘What Does He Know?’
“Bachelor” alumni, Reality Steve, and a legal expert weigh in on the embattled former host’s reported eight-figure golden parachute.
A long-running Hollywood love affair is finally coming to an end.
On Tuesday, just hours after The Bachelorette debuted its new season, news broke that Chris Harrison is officially exiting the Bachelor franchise—and apparently, he’s leaving with a good amount of dirt. According to Deadline, Harrison has secured a mid-range eight-figure payout thanks, at least in part, to his lawyer’s vow that should his settlement prove insufficient, they would unleash "the Shiva of lawsuits," uncovering a heap of “alleged dirty laundry.”
News of Harrison’s departure did not surprise everyone, but his rich deal did raise eyebrows. Speaking with The Daily Beast, Bachelor alumni, Reality Steve, and entertainment lawyer Anita K. Sharma expressed a variety of opinions on Harrison’s exit, but they all agreed on one thing: eight figures is a huge number.
“It begs the question, what is out there?” Josiah Graham, who appeared on Rachel Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette, said of the pact. “From a curiosity standpoint, what the heck is going on?”
Harrison has been on hiatus since February, when he stirred controversy by defending Rachael Kirkconnell—the eventual winner of Matt James’ season, who was photographed attending an Antebellum South-themed party—in a viral interview with Rachel Lindsay. In the early days of Harrison’s hiatus, several of the show’s Black alumni said they wouldn’t be comfortable if he returned to his hosting duties any time soon.
There have been hints since then that Harrison might be on his way out; things didn’t look good after ABC announced that a bevy of celebrities would take turns guest-hosting Bachelor in Paradise when it returns in August, and they grew more dire when it was revealed he wouldn’t be back for Michelle Young’s Bachelorette season this fall. News of the exit was surprising to some, but that eye-popping number—and the way Harrison allegedly secured it—did.
“I would be curious as to what the dirty laundry was,” Graham wondered to The Daily Beast. “It’s a little unsettling to think that someone is threatening someone during a negotiation to pretty much get paid for his silence. That kind of stunned me. What does he know that they would be willing to pay him… to buy his silence? Is it racial things? Is he not the only person that’s made certain comments? I don’t know. That’s what I started to wonder.”
According to Variety, one source of leverage was the disturbing allegation of domestic assault that Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss’s then-estranged wife, Laura, raised in 2019. She alleged that upon finding out she was pregnant with a second child, Fleiss “demanded” that she have an abortion—and that at one point, he got physical, forcibly grabbing her cellphone and threatening to throw her down the stairs before eventually pinning her to a wall. (Fleiss denied the allegations in court filings and the two have reconciled.)
The statements released by both Harrison and the Bachelor franchise have been cordial, if terse. In response to The Daily Beast’s request for comment, ABC Entertainment and Warner Horizon provided a joint statement: “Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of The Bachelor franchise. We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey.”
“I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of The Bachelor franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter,” Harrison added in his own statement. “I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all of the memories we’ve made together. While my two-decade journey is wrapping up, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime.”
The terms of Harrison’s agreement with Bachelor producers and distributor Warner Horizon remain under wraps, Deadline notes. But at the very least, prominent Bachelor blogger Steve Carbone (aka Reality Steve) insists this clearly wasn’t Harrison’s decision—unless he’s changed his mind since his interview on Good Morning America back in March, in which he said, “I plan to be back and I want to be back.”
“My guess is that this came from high up,” Carbone said. “Because obviously ABC is under the Disney umbrella, and they don’t want any negative publicity about anything.” Bringing Harrison back, Carbone posited, likely seemed unappealing, since it would inevitably renew discussion of Harrison’s blunder and whether or not he should be allowed to return.
Entertainment lawyer and Sharma Law founder Anita K. Sharma notes that the vague description of Harrison’s deal leaves open several questions. For instance: Is the figure a pure cash payout or does it include future royalties? Given Harrison’s long tenure with the show, Sharma said royalties are likely part of the package.
Even the number itself, Sharma said, merits scrutiny. “You know the entertainment business,” she said. “There’s a lot of spin and bluster. I would take that with a grain of salt… I think everybody exaggerates, and mid range sounds really good as opposed to low range. Nobody’s going to say low range.”
That said, Sharma agreed that the figure is huge. She also expressed surprise that Harrison was able to secure such a lucrative deal as a non-producer. “Especially in that context, yes, it’s high to me,” she said of the reported figure. “But you know, the 20 years—you have to look at that as well.”
Most astonishing to Sharma, however, was that Harrison’s attorney’s strongarm strategies actually leaked in the first place. “However, it got out, it’s out there and every article I’ve read is talking about this ‘Shiva of lawsuits,’” she said, adding later, “It also already throws dirt on the franchise, right? Because it’s implying there’s a lot of secrets.”
When asked what he made of Deadline’s indication that Harrison’s lawyer leveraged the longtime host’s inside knowledge to secure his rich buyout, Carbone replied, “I absolutely think it’s true.”
“He’s been there since day one,” the blogger said. “He’s seen and heard everything that’s gone on on that set... There’s been stories for years of the amount of debauchery that goes on behind the scenes in production, the manipulation of production... the flat-out lying of production to contestants to get the end result that they want.”
That said, Carbone added, it would be a pretty hypocritical threat for Harrison’s camp to make, “since he was complicit in it because he knew about it... It is kind of silly of him to be like, ‘Well, I’m gonna expose all your secrets!’ Yeah, all the secrets that you were very well aware of, that you did nothing about at the time?”
Evidently, Harrison’s silence is valuable—but could he still manage to secure a tell-all book deal? Sharma said it’s unlikely, at least without some serious legal gymnastics. “They’d have to find some kind of workaround,” she said. “I would be surprised if he was able to just do that.” And as Carbone put it, “If you knew what was going on, it clearly didn’t bother you enough to stand up and say something about it or leave the show.”
With each new season, The Bachelor and its many offshoots love to claim that this will be “the most dramatic” ever, with secret girlfriends, shocking post-finale breakups, and the time Colton Underwood hopped over an 8-foot-tall fence. But since The Bachelor premiered in 2002, and throughout its run with spinoffs including The Bachelorette, The Bachelor Winter Games, and Bachelor in Paradise, the franchise has faced relatively few major scandals. At least, none have shaken its foundation like this.
Previously, only two major instances of bad off-screen behavior have managed to break the show’s fourth wall. One came in 2010 when a contestant was kicked off the show and a married producer fired after they allegedly had a tryst while filming. The confrontation between Harrison and the woman over the affair was teased relentlessly in the lead-up to the episode airing, before the sniffling contestant was sent packing.
A much more serious situation took place during filming of Bachelor in Paradise in the summer of 2017, where production was shut down for a few days due to “allegations of misconduct” between two contestants. A producer had raised concern after witnessing contestant Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson having sexual relations in the pool, but due to Olympios’ highly intoxicated state, the producer feared Olympios was unable to consent.
Although Olympios said she had “little memory of that night” and production had filmed the whole incident, Warner Bros. said it had found no evidence of misconduct and that no cast member’s safety was ever in jeopardy.
Olympios later maintained that she had mixed medication with alcohol, prompting a “severe black-out,” however she insisted that Jackson was not at fault. “It was unfortunate,” she said. “But you know what, I’m an adult and I have to move past it.”
It’s too soon to tell exactly how much of an impact Harrison’s permanent absence will have on the show. Despite the online praise and excitement for Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s debut as Harrison’s temporary replacement on Katie Thurston’s Bachelorette outing, ratings for the premiere dipped by 24 percent compared to Clare Crawley’s premiere in October of 2020.
LaNease Adams, who appeared on The Bachelor’s inaugural season and shared the first kiss with Alex Michel, told The Daily Beast back in March that parting ways with Harrison would be a mistake for the franchise. When reached on Monday, she expressed her disappointment—especially in light of the fact that James and Kirkconnell seem to be back together.
“When Matt and Rachael got back together, to me, it was like, ‘I told you so,’” she said. “We told you that this was a mistake that happened, that yes it was wrong, but we can learn from this... But instead you had these people who went up in arms and they’re like, ‘Blah, blah, blah, blah, this, this and that,’ acting like it’s the end of the world. And now the two are back together. And now what? Crickets!”
“I really would be surprised if The Bachelor can continue to thrive after losing Chris,” she said, adding later, “I think he brought a wonderful perspective… It’s just like at any job that you’ve been at for 19 years: you know it like the back of your hand.”
Adams believes Harrison really cared about the show’s contestants—and that ultimately, his empathy for them led to his downfall: “He could have easily just gone along to get along and said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right, blah, blah, blah.’ And he wouldn’t have lost his job, but instead he’s trying to do what he felt was right, and lost his job.”
But not everyone thinks Harrison is essential. Carbone put it bluntly: “It’s kind of humorous to me that you’ve seen the sentiment online, ‘I’m not watching if Chris Harrison isn’t the host,’” he said. “It’s never really made a hell of a lot of sense to me because he doesn’t have much of an on-air role… When you talk about the show to your friends, you don’t talk about what Chris Harrison did on the show; you talk about the dates and the contestants and the drama.”
Eric Bigger, who appeared with Graham on Lindsay’s season, doesn’t think all of the discussion around Harrison’s departure was warranted. Instead, he’s much more concerned if it will result in any meaningful structural changes to the franchise.
“It doesn’t change the narrative; that doesn’t change the behavior,” he said. “He’s gone, so what happens when the next person makes a remark? Do they get the same treatment?”
Still, Bigger grants, there is some humor to the cosmic timing of both Harrison’s career-ruining February interview and today’s announcement: “It’s funny all these things are happening during Mercury in retrograde.”