Former bachelor Colton Underwood shared his support for Chris Harrison when the reality show host confirmed his departure from the franchise on Tuesday.
And later in the day, Underwood was seen leaving lunch in Beverly Hills with some male companions.
The 29-year-old, who recently came out as gay, was all smiles and wore a backwards baseball cap with a t-shirt and shorts.
Reality star: Former bachelor Colton Underwood, 29, looked happy and relaxed as he left lunch in Beverly Hills with some male friends on Tuesday after paying tribute to TV host Chris Harrison
Harrison, who has hosted The Bachelor since 2002 and its spin-offs, The Bachelorette and The Bachelor in Paradise, left the ABC franchise after criticizing his defense of a contestant attending a plantation-themed party.
Underwood posted a tribute to Harrison on his Instagram story on Tuesday, calling him a “Grade A human being.”
“Thank you for being a friend, a stand-up guy and a great host,” Underwood wrote. “Can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next.”
The Instagram tribute came as Warner Media and ABC Entertainment confirmed Fox news that Harrison, 49, would not be returning as host.
“Chris Harrison is stepping down as host of The Bachelor franchise,” the producers said in a statement to Fox News. “We are grateful for his many contributions over the past 20 years and wish him all the best on his new journey.”
Lunched out: Underwood, 29, who recently came out as gay, was all smiles and wore a backwards baseball cap with a t-shirt and shorts
Bachelor alums: Earlier on Tuesday, he had taken to Instagram to express his support for Harrison, who confirmed he is leaving the ABC franchise after nearly 20 years due to a racism scandal
Fan: Underwood’s post called Harrison a ‘Grade A human being’, a ‘stand up guy and a hell of a host’
For his part, Harrison also took to Instagram with a statement of his own.
“I’ve had a really incredible run hosting The Bachelor franchise and now I’m excited to start a new chapter,” he wrote. “I’m so grateful to Bachelor Nation for all the memories we made together.”
He added, “As my two-decade journey draws to a close, the friendships I’ve made will last a lifetime.”
Harrison, 49, is walking away with an eight-figure payout after months of tense negotiations with WBTV and Disney-owned ABC television, according to Deadline.
The outlet said Harrison’s attorney Bryan Freedman had threatened to bring a series of lawsuits against the franchise unless the host received adequate severance pay.
The eight-figure payout comes with a promise to “shut up,” per Deadline.
His opinion: Harrison, for his part, also took to Instagram with his own statement about his situation
Racism scandal: His departure comes after he faced fierce resistance for defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell (right) after photos of her surfaced at a 2018 fraternity-themed Old South fraternity
Harrison’s departure comes about five months after he came under fire for a year Additional interview in which he appeared to defend a contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, over 2018 photos that showed her participating in an Old South plantation-themed fraternity formal.
He said in the February interview, “We all need a little grace, a little understanding, a little compassion” towards Kirkconnell amid the turbulent times of the “awake police” and cancellation culture.
“I’ve seen some things online – this judge, jury, executioner thing, where people are tearing up this girl’s life and diving into it, like her parents’ voting behavior,” he said. “It’s incredibly alarming to see this.”
“I haven’t heard Rachael talk about this yet,” Harrison continued. “And until I actually hear this woman speak a chance, who am I to say this.”
Those comments sparked comments online, and Harrison later took to Instagram to clarify his comments.
“While I do not speak for Rachael Kirkconnell, my intention was simply to ask for mercy in offering an opportunity to speak on her behalf,” he wrote. “What I realize I’ve done is harm by speaking inappropriately in a way that perpetuates racism, and I’m deeply sorry for that.”
By Valentine’s Day, Harrison announced that during the show’s first season, he would be “going sideways” with a black bachelor.
Harrison apologized for his comments in the interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in early March, when he admitted he was “insensitive” and “made a mistake” when he vowed to return to the reality show and “be part of the change.”
But his apology was rejected by Strahan, who suggested his remorse was only “superficial” and a ploy by his fellow ABC colleague to get his $8 million-a-year job back.
Mistake: Harrison apologized in an interview with GMA host Michael Strahan in March, saying he was “insensitive” and “made a mistake” (above)
Former bachelors Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe are now co-hosts of the current Bachelorette season, and last week executives announced a rotating roster of hosts for the franchise’s summer show, Bachelor in Paradise.
Kirkconnell, meanwhile, received the final rose from Bachelor Matt James on the March 15 season finale, but in the “After the Rose” special that night, James said he cut things off.
James was reportedly “reluctant to confirm the relationship publicly and outright” because it was “still fresh and they are still having trouble working through,” an unnamed source told Page Six.
“Rachael has already been scrutinized for her past, and now all eyes are on Matt,” the source said. “So he feels the pressure to lead by example for other black men.”
The couple was recently seen together in Miami and the Hamptons.
Reunited: Bachelor Matt James Finally Picked Kirkconnell in Season Finale