Two evangelical Christians who were supposed to host a new real estate show on HGTV have been ousted from the cable channel, after a website revealed that one of the men had made extensive comments condemning homosexuality.
Twin brothers David and Jason Benham were set to host the HGTV show "Flip It Forward,” in which the buff, blond duo would "help families find a fixer-upper and transform it into the dream home they never thought they could afford,” according to HGTV’s description. The show was to debut in October.
But on Tuesday, the website Right Wing Watch posted a blog alleging that HGTV had tapped an “anti-gay, anti-choice extremist” for the new program.
The post includes an audio clip from 2012 in which David Benham told a radio host that he was working to stop “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation,” and he referred to “demonic ideologies” in schools. Mr. Benham, who also held a prayer rally that month against gay marriage, went on to tell the radio host that he supported passing North Carolina’s amendment that bans gay marriage.
Right Wing Watch pointed out that the brothers are the children of the Rev. Philip Benham, the evangelical pastor who leads the antiabortion group Operation Save America. The elder Mr. Benham was sentenced to 18 months of probation in 2011 for stalking an abortion doctor in Charlotte, N.C., and has made statements condemning the inclusion of Muslims in an interfaith Sandy Hook memorial service, according to Right Wing Watch.
HGTV announced the show’s cancellation in a tweet: “HGTV has decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers' series." The channel has not given a reason for the cancellation.
In a CNN interview, the brothers said Right Wing Watch had misrepresented their opinions: “I love homosexuals. I love Islam, Muslims,” said David Benham, arguing that he was against an "agenda," not individuals.
The brothers said that HGTV had been aware of David Benham’s comments before signing them but that the network had gone ahead, after clarifying that he was willing to have a gay couple on the show. But once Right Wing Watch posted the blog, HGTV had “to make a business decision,” David Benham told CNN, adding that the public uproar over his comments had been “too much for them [HGTV] to bear.” He also said that he did not blame the network and felt it had been "bullied" into dropping the show.
"If you represent what we believe would be the pro-family view, you’re not allowed to have that anymore,” added Jason Benham, also speaking on CNN.
A CNN poll just after the cancellation found an almost even split on whether the show should have been pulled, with 52 percent in favor of it getting canceled and 48 percent against it.
It’s not the first time that a TV channel has shown the door to someone with strong and public anti-gay or gay-marriage opinions. In December 2013, A&E suspended cast member Phil Robertson from the controversial reality TV show "Duck Dynasty,” after Mr. Robertson called homosexuality sinful in an interview with GQ magazine. The cable channel later allowed Robertson to return.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who previously defended Robertson in the A&E upset, is scheduled to give a commencement address Saturday at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that will criticize HGTV’s decision, according to The Washington Post. The Benham brothers are both graduates of the school.