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Chris Hardwick Makes Tearful Return to Talking Dead Following Abuse Investigation

Hardwick was reinstated after being accused of sexual misconduct

Liam Mathews

Chris Hardwick returned as host of AMC's Talking Dead after the Fear the Walking Dead midseason premiere Sunday night for his first episode after an internal investigation cleared him of sexual misconduct.

Hardwick didn't directly address the accusations of sexual and emotional abuse leveled against him by ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra, but tearfully thanked fans for their support. "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," he said, per EW. "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."

"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. "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, 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 put Hardwick in a holding pattern in June after Dykstra, who dated the comic and host from 2011 to 2014, accused him of abusing her during their relationship. Actress and frequent Talking Dead guest Yvette Nicole Brown moderated The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead's Comic-Con panels in Hardwick's place. Hardwick thanked Brown during Sunday's Talking Dead, calling her an "amazing friend," a "gift on this planet" and a "true friend."

AMC conducted an internal investigation into Hardwick's conduct that Dykstra chose not to participate in. The network reinstated Hardwick last month. In addition to Talking Dead, he also hosts a general pop culture talk show called Talking with Chris Hardwick.

Several female Talking Dead staffers, including an executive producer, quit upon Hardwick's return.