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After serving as the face of “The Bachelor” television franchise for nearly 20 years, host Chris Harrison is permanently leaving, Warner Horizon and ABC Entertainment confirmed to CBS News on Tuesday. His departure comes following online backlash earlier this year when he defended a previous contestant’s racist behavior. 

“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 a statement on Instagram. “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.”

Harrison made the announcement a day after the season 17 premiere of “The Bachelorette,” which received the lowest premiere ratings in the series’ entire history, according to data analyzed by entertainment website Deadline. Former Bachelorettes Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams have taken his place as co-hosts.

Earlier this year, Harrison temporarily stepped aside for “excusing historical racism” and “defending it,” as he described in an Instagram post in February.

After photos resurfaced this year of previous contestant Rachael Kirkconnell attending an antebellum-themed party in 2018, Harrison said in an interview with ExtraTV that “we all need to have a little grace,” and that he “is not the woke police.”

“Because I have seen some stuff online — this judge, jury, executioner thing — where people are just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into, like, her parents, her parents’ voting record,” Harrison told Rachel Lindsay, the franchise’s first Black female lead, in the interview. “It’s unbelievably alarming to watch this. I haven’t heard Rachael speak on this yet. And until I actually hear this woman have a chance to speak, who am I to say any of this?”

Lindsay reminded the host in the interview that the picture was in 2018 and that it was “not a good look,” to which Harrison replied: “Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?”

Following the controversial interview, Harrison received backlash and he later apologized on social media to the Black community and Lindsay. In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” he said he had sought out a “race educator and strategist” to assist in taking accountability and moving forward.

“My ignorance did damage to my friends, colleagues and strangers alike,” Harrison wrote at the time. “I have no one to blame but myself for what I said and the way I spoke. I set standards for myself and have not met them. I feel that with every fiber of my being.”

Former “Bachelor” stars reacted to Harrison’s departure Tuesday, including Sean Lowe, who wrote, “… It will never be the same,” in reference to Harrison’s departure.

“Truly the end of an era,” former “Bachelorette” Ashley Laconetti wrote. “Thank you for all the years of hard work and love you put into the show. I have a lump in my throat writing this.”