In an announcement on June 8, Warner Horizon and ABC Entertainment confirmed he would step aside and thanked Harrison "for his many contributions over the past 20 years."
"I’ve had a truly incredible run as host of 'The Bachelor' franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter," Harrison wrote in an Instagram post. "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."
A June 6 newsletter written by former Hollywood Reporter editor Matt Belloni cited two anonymous sources confirming Harrison, 49, was negotiating his exit. Deadline published a similar anonymous report June 8.
Harrison's name has been synonymous with "The Bachelor" since he has hosted since the show premiere in 2002. He went on to host a variety of other TV events including the Miss America pageant, though he remained best known as the face of the original reality dating show, "The Bachelorette" (which arrived in 2003) and "Bachelor in Paradise."
This spring during "The Bachelor" (starring Matt James, the franchise's first Black male lead), contestant Rachael Kirkconnell faced backlash for previously liking Confederate flag-related TikTok videos and attending a plantation-themed party in 2018. Harrison came under fire for defending Kirkconnell, who who later apologized for her "offensive and racist" actions and ultimately won James' season. The couple broke up before the finale aired but have since reconciled.
The host defended Kirkconnell from what he called the "woke police" during a Feb. 9 interview on the syndicated "Extra" series with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black lead on "The Bachelorette."
"We all need to have a little grace… Because I've seen some stuff online, again this judge-jury-executioner thing, where people are just tearing this girl's life apart," Harrison said during the interview. "I'm not defending Rachael. I just know that, I don't know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to."
He continued: "The woke police is out there. And this poor girl Rachael, who has just been thrown to the lions. I don't know how you are equipped when you have never done this before, to be woke enough, to be eloquent enough, to be ready to handle this."
Harrison apologized to Lindsay, admitted in March he "made a mistake" and said would be "stepping aside for a period of time" but added he had no plans to resign.
"I plan to be back and I want to be back," Harrison told "Good Morning America" on March 4 in his first interview following the scandal. "This interview is not the finish line. There is much more work to be done, and I am excited to be part of that change."
He was subsequently replaced for "The Bachelor"s "After the Final Rose" special in March by author, TV host and former NFL player Emmannuel Acho; and for the next season of "The Bachelorette" in June by former stars Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe.
In his more than 50 seasons hosting "The Bachelor" and its offshoots, Harrison served as a confidant to stars and contestants, as well as a narrator and guide for viewers. He was also the officiant at several televised "Bachelor" franchise weddings.
"Bachelor"alumni including Colton Underwood weighed in on Harrison's exit on June 8, showing their support for the former host.
"Grade A human being," Underwood shared on his Instagram story. "Thank you for being a friend, a stand up guy and a hell of a host."
"Love you brotha. On to bigger and better things," Arie Luyendyk Jr. commented on Harrison's post.
"You are truly irreplaceable as a host, thank you for all the years you put into this show and making it what it is. No one does it quite like Mr. Chris Harrison," Bristowe commented.
"You will be missed Chris!" Kelley Flanagan wrote.
During his appearance on the June 8 episode of E!'s "Daily Pop," former "Bachelorette" contestant Mike Johnson noted that "change can be a good thing," when asked about Harrison's departure.
"I think that for the people saying, 'I won't watch the show because of this or that reason,' like, change can be a good thing," he said. "The young man was there for 19 years. He did a great job. Let's keep it moving."
Johnson also said he'd be up for a candid conversation with Harrison, either at a barbeque or on "Talking It Out," the podcast Johnson co-hosts with Lindsay's husband Bob Abasolo.
"Chris Harrison, I've said it once, I'll say it again. He lives in Austin. I live in Austin. Let's go have a barbecue," he said, later adding, "One hundred percent we'll have Chris Harrison on the show to talk it out," he said. "I'm not gonna hold back. Bryan's not gonna hold back whatsoever."
Contributing: Cydney Henderson, Charles Trepany
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chris Harrison exits 'Bachelor' after controversy; Mike Johnson reacts