As many of you know, real estate agents David and Jason Benham had inked a deal to host a house-flipping show on HGTV. But HGTV tore up that deal on Thursday after People for the American Way revealed the Benhams' long history of Islamophobic and homophobic comments. Literally within hours of the cancellation, the same people behind the campaign to get A&E to reverse its suspension of Phil Robertson launched a campaign to support the Benhams called "#FlipThisDecision."
"David and Jason Benham are well-qualified to star on an HGTV show, they are well-respected members of their community, and the network has invested time and treasure in developing Flip It Forward," says Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer and certified brand strategist. "Now this project has come to a screeching halt simply because the Benham brothers hold a biblical view of life and marriage."Stone, along with virtually every Christianist who has spoken out on this, leaves out one key fact--the Benhams have made comments about gays and Muslims that make Robertson's anti-gay comments sound tame by comparison. David, the most active of the two, has claimed gays are controlled by "demonic forces" and has called Islam a "demonic agenda" and "the enemy attacking America." The Benhams also organized and funded a prayer rally in conjunction with the 2012 Democratic National Convention here in Charlotte that, according to David, was aimed at stopping the numerous "demonic agendas" attacking this nation--including homosexuality. But most people in the religious right's audience wouldn't know this. Remember, these are people who, for the most part, live in a bubble. They get their news from Fox News, CBN and Christian radio stations, watch television on SkyAngel and send their kids to Christian school or homeschool them with Christianist-oriented curricula.
Stone called HGTV's move a demonstration of pure intolerance, discrimination and bullying toward those who hold to widely held and legitimate views.
"HGTV's rash actions hold no place in America's rainbow of diversity," he says. "Whether people agree or disagree with the Benhams' faith-driven perspective is beside the point; the Benhams have a right to have those views and to be treated equally with those who hold to other viewpoints. This is the very definition of tolerance."
As Stone sees it, HGTV's actions reveal it is in conflict with its own stated core values of integrity and diversity, which emphasize "having a strong moral compass which points to character, honesty, ethical practice and accountability" and hold that all are included in the "broad canvas of interests, backgrounds, lifestyles and ethnicities."
The Benhams told WBTV in Charlotte that HGTV knew about their beliefs well in advance. The picture I'm getting, though, is that HGTV didn't know about these statements before PFAW revealed them. Once those remarks became known, I suspect HGTV concluded that this wasn't something that an on-air disclaimer could fix. Indeed, David Benham calling Islam the enemy would have been enough by itself to force a cancellation in my view.
A recent study by the Brookings Institution suggests that the religious right is headed for long-term decline because it's losing the battle for the young--badly. Campaigns like this only prove it. Do they really want to look like they're defending a guy who's a raving Islamophobe, as well as a guy who thinks gays are demonic? If we can make that the issue, #FlipThisDecision will end up flipping on its face.