Chris Hardwick was in tears during an emotional opening to Sunday night’s episode of AMC’s Talking Dead, but did not specifically address his ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra’s allegations of abuse against him.
“I really just want to take a minute and I want to say that I’m so appreciative to be standing here right now, and I want to thank you, The Walking Dead community, for all your support over these past couple months. This show is not just a job to me, this is a vital part of my life, this has been a sanctuary these last seven years we’ve been here,” he said through tears at the top of the episode.
Hardwick was nearly replaced by Yvette Nicole Brown on the popular after-show after Dykstra wrote a lengthy Medium essay accusing him of extended emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. He was ultimately reinstated following the conclusion of an AMC investigation.
“This has been with me through good times and bad times, and I have so much gratitude to you the fans, the producers, and the casts of these amazing shows for allowing me to be a part of this community every week,” he continued on Sunday. “This is what this is, a community, and we’re on the precipice of a lot of changes on both Walking Dead shows in the coming weeks and months, and I am so looking forward to going on that journey with you. And I’ve said the following words a million times, countless times, [and] I’ve never been more thankful than I am in this moment to say to you: I am Chris Hardwick and this is Talking Dead.”
Though Dykstra’s account did not identify Hardwick by name in her essay, several details pointed to him as the alleged abuser in question, from their ages (Dykstra is 29 and Hardwick is 46, and in the essay she describes “falling for a man almost 20 years my senior”) to his professional journey (“from a mildly successful podcaster to a powerhouse CEO of his own company” — Nerdist began as a podcast, and Hardwick rose to CEO of Nerdist Industries).
Dykstra accused him of emotional and sexual abuse, from imposing rules on her behavior — “I ‘should not want to go somewhere at night’ … I was to not have close male friends unless we worked together … As he was sober, I was not to drink alcohol … I was not to speak in public places (elevators, cars with drivers, restaurants where tables were too close) as he believed that people recognized him and were listening to our conversations … [and] I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of us” — to straight-up sexual assault: “I did what he said …Including let him sexually assault me. Regularly. I was expected to be ready for him when he came home from work … Every night, I laid there for him, occasionally in tears. He called it ‘starfishing.’ He thought the whole idea was funny.”
Hardwick confirmed the post was referring to him in a statement shortly after the story broke, but denied her specific allegations.
In response to Dykstra’s account, Hardwick was scrubbed from the Nerdist website, dropped from San Diego Comic-Con panels, and removed from Talking Dead. After the AMC investigation, however, most of those decisions were reversed. His name is back on Nerdist, and in addition to hosting Talking Dead tonight, he will return as host of NBC game show The Wall this fall, and will also appear as a guest judge on the new season of America’s Got Talent.
In a statement posted to Twitter on July 26, Dykstra said she chose not to participate in the AMC investigation: “I have been adamant since I came forward with my essay that I never set out to ruin the career of the person I spoke about.”