Jack leaves Project Runway because of a staph infection, and is replaced by Chris March

Confirming a pre-season rumor, designer Jack Mackenroth left Project Runway 4 during the fifth episode due to a MRSA or staph infection. He was replaced by Chris March, the designer who was kicked off last week–and who many thought deserved to still be in the competition.

Before his departure, Jack said in an interview, “it is important for people to know that I’ve been HIV-positive for 17 years, but my immune system’s not suppressed at all. It wasn’t about that. Anyone can get what I got. It’s a dangerous bacteria,” he told us. After telling Tim Gunn, he broke the news to the other designers. “I’m just concerned about it getting better. … I just don’t feel comfortable being here any more.”

So what of Jack’s statement that an earlier report that he left the show due to a staph infection was “fictitious”? In a statement released by Bravo back in October, Jack said, “People will say things about me whether they know me or not. Those were not my words and are fictitious.”

While gossip columnist Ben Widdicombe’s source accurately said that Jack “got a ‘staph’ infection and said his face blew up like the kid from ‘Mask,’” the anonymous source also paraphrased Jack: “He is saying he got kicked off … He says he was the fifth designer voted off. He is claiming that this was at least part of the reason he was booted.”

In other words, the report said Jack claimed he was kicked off the show, when last night’s episode made his exit seem voluntary. And although one could interpret Jack’s exiting line–”yeah, I have to leave and go get medical treatment”–as indicating that he was forced to leave (“have to”), he insists now that he left voluntarily.

Asked by TV Guide whether the show’s producers told him to leave, Jack says, “No. It was a personal decision. I’m sure, at some point, if I hadn’t said something, the producers would have been responsible. They have everyone’s welfare in mind, and there are insurance issues and all that. But I wanted to do it on my terms and I think they let me do that.” He also says that he realized “for my own health and the health of everyone else involved, I think I need to withdraw.”

Jack Explains His Dramatic Voluntary Runway Departure [TV Guide]

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.