'Heartbroken' Chris Harrison breaks silence on 'Bachelor' exit: 'Sick to my stomach'

FILE - In this April 29, 2018, file photo, Chris Harrison presents the award for outstanding entertainment talk show host at the Daytime Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Center in Pasadena, Calif. Harrison is stepping aside as host of "The Bachelor" franchise. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)
Chris Harrison, who hosted "Bachelor"-related shows for 19 years, finally opened up about his controversial exit from the ABC franchise. (Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press)

Chris Harrison's time away from the "Bachelor" franchise has taken its toll.

More than a year after he defended a contestant's previous racist behavior in an infamous "Extra" interview, the TV personality addressed the controversy in the debut episode of "The Most Dramatic Podcast Ever," his latest endeavor.

"I think I needed time," he said in the episode, which dropped Sunday and Monday on various podcast platforms. "I need time to figure out what I want to say, how I felt."

Harrison, who hosted the "Bachelor" franchise" for 19 years, departed the series after his controversial "Extra" interview with the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, in which he defended Season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell for attending an antebellum South-themed fraternity party in 2018. In March 2021, he apologized for his comments, noting, "that mistake doesn’t reflect who I am or what I stand for."

Addressing his fans directly, the television personality brought up the "one point I was trying to make" during the 2021 interview, and applied it to his own experience with backlash.

"You need time to process. We must have grace and patience for people to think and process or else you're just getting this nonsensical reactive emotion from people," he said. "I wanted to step away, I wanted to think and learn and change and go through everything I went through, personally, before I had this talk."

While his "Extra" comments marked the beginning of his "Bachelor" downfall, Harrison — "heartbroken," "gutted" and "embarrassed" — said the backlash took its toll in more ways than one.

"I was sick. Sick to my stomach. And I lost 20 pounds, I didn't sleep. I didn't eat," he said. "I was scared to death. ... I worried about my kids, I worried about my family, my dad, my brother, all my loved ones."

After Harrison stepped down, ABC recruited a number of guest hosts to fill his spot, including former NFL player Emmanuel Acho and former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe. Season 5 star Jesse Palmer took up the mantle in Season 26.

While Harrison said he hasn't watched the show since exiting the "Bachelor" franchise, he has been keeping an eye on its television ratings. Seeing the declining ratings, he said, "hurts me a little bit."

Ultimately, Harrison said he sees the "Bachelor" controversy as a wake-up call from God.

"Sometimes [blessings] come in brutal, humbling, life-altering shocking moments," he said. "And that's what this was."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.