Chris Harrison allegedly demanded a $25million payout to leave The Bachelor franchise – or else he would air 19 years of behind-the-scenes secrets in a slew of lawsuits against the its producers and executives.
Sources familiar with negotiations surrounding Harrison’s abrupt exit on Tuesday said ABC Studios had hoped the 49-year-old would leave ‘quickly and quietly’ amid backlash over comments he made defending a contestant who appeared in pictures at a plantation-themed fraternity party.
Instead, Harrison fought back.
‘He has nearly 20 years of dirt,’ an insider told Page Six. ‘Instead of handing them a rose, he was absolutely ready to hand them a lawsuit detailing all the behind-the-scenes details.
‘He knows a lot about inappropriate behavior on set: fights between contestants, misbehavior including [the] use of illegal substances while overseas and complaints from producers that were allegedly brushed under the carpet by ABC execs.’
Chris Harrison officially left The Bachelor franchise on Tuesday, after serving as host for 19 years. His departure came after he faced intense backlash for defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell (right) after photos emerged of her at a 2018 Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal
‘He was ready to tell the truth about how things really work over there, and he had plenty of evidence to back him up,’ the source continued.
‘Chris Harrison’s whole life was The Bachelor and he did not want to let go.
‘He still is really sad to leave, and there have been very tough and very heated negotiations going on for weeks.’
Harrison is now walking away from the franchise he has hosted for 19 years with a mid eight-figure payout, Deadline first reported Tuesday, although sources familiar with the negotiations said it is not as high as the $25million he demanded.
The payout came with a promise to ‘keep his mouth shut’, per Deadline.
Representing Harrison in the negotiations was prominent Los Angeles lawyer Bryan Freedman, who had previously represented The Bachelor creator and executive producer Mike Fleiss’ wife in their divorce when she claimed he was abusive.
Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, a former Miss America, later withdrew her complaint and received a $10million settlement.
‘Chris Harrison hired Bryan Freedman, who represented Mike Fleiss’ wife, which immediately set an aggressive playing field,’ a second source told Page Six. ‘It was a bunch of emotionally-charged men in a room who were not happy with each other at all.’
Harrison’s departure allegedly followed weeks of intense negotiations with ABC Entertainment executives as he demanded a $25 million payout or he would reveal behind-the-scene secrets
Warner Media and ABC Entertainment confirmed Harrison’s departure in a statement after Deadline broke the news.
‘Chris Harrison is stepping aside as host of The Bachelor franchise,’ the producers told Fox News in a statement.
Harrison had hired prominent LA lawyer Bryan Freedman (pictured) to represent him in the negotiations
‘We are thankful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey.’
Harrison – who served as the host of The Bachelor and its spinoffs, The Bachelorette and The Bachelor in Paradise, since 2002 – also wrote a goodbye post on his Instagram page.
‘I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of The Bachelor franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter,’ he wrote. ‘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.’
Former Bachelor Colton Underwood also shared his support for Harrison, posting a tribute to Harrison on his Instagram story and calling him a ‘Grade A human being.’
‘Thank you for being a friend, a stand up guy and a hell of a host,’ Underwood wrote. ‘Can’t wait to see what you do next.’
Former Bachelor Colton Underwood, right, posted a tribute to longtime host Chris Harrison, left, on Tuesday as he leaves the franchise after nearly 20 years
Underwood’s post called Harrison a ‘Grade A human being,’ a ‘stand up guy and a hell of a host’
Harrison also wrote a goodbye post thanking the ‘Bachelor Nation’ for 20 years of memories
Harrison’s departure comes roughly five months after he came under fire for an Extra interview in which he seemed to defend a contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, over 2018 photos that showed her participating in an Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal.
He said that in the February interview: ‘We all need to have a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion’ toward Kirkconnell amid the turbulent times of the ‘woke police’ and cancel culture.
‘I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing, where people are tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents’ voting record,’ he said. ‘It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this.’
‘I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet,’ Harrison continued. ‘And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this.’
Those comments sparked backlash online, and Harrison later took to Instagram to clarify his remarks.
‘While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intentions were simply to ask for grace in offering an opportunity to speak on her own behalf,’ he wrote. ‘What I realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am deeply sorry.’
By Valentine’s Day, Harrison announced he would be ‘stepping aside for a period of time’ during the show’s first season to feature a black Bachelor.
Harrison apologized for his remarks in the interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in early March, admitting he was ‘insensitive’ and ‘made a mistake’ as he vowed to return to the reality show and ‘be part of the change’.
But his apology was dismissed by Strahan who suggested his contrition was just ‘surface’ and a ploy by his fellow ABC colleague to get his $8million a year job back.
Harrison apologized in an interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in March, saying he was ‘insensitive’ and ‘made a mistake’ (above)
Former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe are now co-hosting the current Bachelorette season, and just last week, executives announced a rotating list of hosts for the franchise’s summer show, Bachelor in Paradise.
Kirkconnell, meanwhile, received the final rose from Bachelor Matt James in the March 15 season finale, but in the ‘After the Rose’ special that night, James said he had cut things off.
The couple is now ‘trying to make it work,’ James told the Wall Street Journal last month, and are now planning to move in together, according to Page Six.
James was reportedly ‘hesitant to publicly and outrightly confirm’ the relationship because it was ‘still fresh and they still have issues to work through,’ an unnamed source allegedly told Page Six .
‘Rachael already faced scrutiny for her past, and now all eyes have shifted to Matt,’ the source said. ‘So he’s feeling pressure to set a good example for other black men.’
The couple was recently seen together in Miami and the Hamptons.
Bachelor Matt James wound up choosing Kirkconnell in the season finale