Chris Hardwick gets emotional during 'Talking Dead' return: 'I'm so appreciative to be standing here right now'

Chris Hardwick returned to host Talking Dead on Sunday night after being reinstated by AMC following sexual abuse allegations. He got emotional at the top of the show, thanking fans and producers for their support.

“Hi, uh, normally I recap the show we’re about to talk about here, but instead, I really just want to take a minute and I want to say that I’m so appreciative to be standing here right now,” Hardwick began. “And I want to thank you, The Walking Dead community, for all of your support over these past couple of months.”

Chris Hardwick is back on AMC. (Photo: AMC)

He continued, through tears, “This show is not just a job to me, this is a vital part of my life, you know? This has been a sanctuary these last seven years we’ve been here. This has been with me through good times and bad times, and I have so much gratitude to you the fans, and the producers, and the amazing casts of both of these shows for allowing me to come here and be a part of this community every week.”

Hardwick hosts the aftershows for both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.

“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,” Hardwick said. “And I’ve said the following words a million times, countless times, and yet 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.”

AMC launched an internal investigation after Hardwick’s ex-girlfriend, Chloe Dykstra, penned an essay accusing him of being emotionally and sexually abusive during their relationship years ago. In a controversial move, the network cleared him of wrongdoing saying in a statement last month, “We believe returning Chris to work is the appropriate step.”

Not everyone working on the show agreed.

Hardwick’s female co-executive producer, Jen Patton, quit Talking Dead in protest of his reinstatement. She worked with Hardwick for nearly five years, according to Deadline. The Wrap also reported approximately 25 staffers quit as a result of the network’s decision.

Initial career repercussions for Hardwick were swift after the June scandal.  He was axed from the Nerdist website, the digital media empire he helped launch, and was dropped from San Diego Comic-Con panels. AMC wiped Hardwick from its schedule and he was nearly replaced by friend Yvette Nicole Brown as the Talking Dead host. But that’s all a distant memory as the television personality is seemingly back and busier than ever.

After AMC’s vote of confidence, NBC announced Hardwick would appear as a guest judge on an episode of America’s Got Talent and he will return to host the game show The Wall for a third season this fall.  His name has also been restored on Nerdist’s website.

Chloe Dykstra and Chris Hardwick (Photo: Getty Images)

Hardwick refuted Dykstra’s allegations after her essay surfaced. “I was heartbroken to read Chloe’s post,” he said in a statement. “Our three-year relationship was not perfect — we were ultimately not a good match and argued — even shouted at each other — but I loved her, and did my best to uplift and support her as a partner and companion in any way and at no time did I sexually assault her.”

In response, Dykstra posted a lengthy message on Twitter saying that she hoped both men and women would make changes. “It is my hope, and it always was, that women and men on both sides of abuse will make changes to either protect themselves, or to stop the cycle of pain their own behavior can cause,” she wrote. “These behaviors are insidious and often hard to spot — we make excuses for them and, bit by bit, we can lose ourselves entirely.”

She concluded, “Having been able to lift from my shoulders that which was weighing me down, I’m ready to move forwards [sic] in my life, finally, instead of looking back with fear and sadness.”

Dykstra hasn’t publicly commented on Hardwick’s tearful return.

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