Chris Harrison Controversy: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson on If He Should Return to 'Bachelor' Franchise (Exclusive)

The author and race educator says the 'Bachelor' host is sincere and committed to educating himself on issues of race.

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, who has been working closely with Bachelor host Chris Harrison after Harrison's controversial remarks defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist actions rocked Bachelor Nation, says the longtime host definitely shouldn't be canceled.

ET's Kevin Frazier spoke to the author of Long Time Coming: Reckoning With Race in America on Friday, and Dyson said that he and Harrison were connected through others following the controversy. Dyson said Harrison is definitely doing the work to understand why his comments were hurtful, and also educating himself, which is why he feels he should return to the show.

"I think as a host, it's extremely important for him to have been through this and to be even more deeply sensitized to the issues of race, to the issues of conflict, with history and the present, and how the franchise can embody some of the best ideals and the norms that he has now taken to," Dyson explains. "The perspectives that he now has -- and I think he will be all the better for it -- and I think quite frankly, the show will be all the better for it as well."

Dyson says Harrison is continuing to be open to learning and is sincere in his multiple apologies for his comments, including his apology to Rachel Lindsay. Lindsay, who made history as the franchise's first Black Bachelorette, disabled her Instagram account after she said she was getting threatened for her Feb. 9 interview with Harrison, in which he made the comments.

"He's a sponge, he's wide open, he's critical, he's self-critical, he's introspective, and he's not doing it for a job," Dyson says of Harrison. "He's doing it for his journey. And that journey is toward recognition, that journey is toward racial justice, that journey is toward understanding how he as a white guy can continue to make a contribution by understanding what his privileges are, what his place is, and what his responsibility is. So, I've been heartened by that."

"[He has a] genuine expression of grief over what he did, recognition that he has apologized, and I think again, apologizing to Rachel Lindsay is extremely important -- a brilliant, brave, beautiful Black woman who doesn't deserve any of the blowback that she has received because she was brave and articulate about her passions and pain -- but he's taken responsibility with that," he continues. "And even Rachel says, 'Look, I was glad he apologized to me personally, let's move forward.'"

Dyson says the incident is not just a critical moment for the franchise, but for American history.

"The Bachelor is one of the most valued franchises in American society and a staple in pop culture," he notes. "People tune in by the millions to find out what's going on. So, the drama of race was always in the background and not always in a positive fashion. The fact that this has now come to the forefront, the fact that this has now surfaced and now they have to confront it through a faux pas of its host, but a host who says, 'I messed up, I 'fessed up, now it's time to dress up.' Let's address the issue and go forward in the new clothes of racial healing and racial understanding."

"I think it's extremely important to kinda engage these issues in an atmosphere of grace, understanding, forgiveness, accountability, responsibility, but also moving forward," he also says.

Dyson said that 49-year-old Harrison can now be a driver of change especially when it comes to speaking to other white people who aren't educated in issues of racism.

"I think that he has been dedicated, I think he's committed, and guess what? If he is a change agent as a host of this tremendous franchise, look at the influence he can have across the board and not just convincing Black people that he's serious, but talking to other white people who may be insensitive or unaware and he can make the difference," he notes.

"Race is not a Black problem, it's a problem in white America and white Americans must address it," he adds.

Tune in to Friday's ET for more of our interview with Dyson.

Harrison -- who has temporarily stepped aside as host of The Bachelor -- gave his first on-camera interview since the controversy with Good Morning America's Michael Strahan, which aired on Thursday. Harrison said he eventually hopes to return to the franchise.

"It was a mistake," Harrison said of his comments defending Kirkconnell. "I made a mistake. I am an imperfect man. I made a mistake and I own that. I believe that mistake doesn't reflect who I am or what I stand for. I am committed to the progress, not just for myself, also for the franchise."

He also noted that he was working with Dyson, who aside from authoring multiple books, is a race educator and strategist, as well as a faith leader.

"Dr. Dyson often talks to me about counsel, not cancel," he said. "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."

Watch the video below for more.


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