Here we go again. The predictable cycle of backlash/counter-backlash set into motion by a pair would-be reality TV stars with reported ties to Islamophobia and anti-gay extremism has officially reached Stage Two.
Following news Wednesday that HGTV is axing the planned show “Flip It Forward” -- which was set to star twin real estate entrepreneurs David and Jason Benham -- Christian activists are arming the hashtags for a counteroffensive they hope will convince the cable network to change its mind. On Thursday, the group Faith Driven Consumer, which aims to influence companies into making what it considers God-friendly marketplace decisions, launched the “Flip This Decision” hashtag campaign, an attempt to strong-arm HGTV through the social media mobilization of its Christian consumer base.
In a statement released Thursday, the group called HGTV’s decision not to move forward with the program “rash,” saying the show should be immediately returned to the network’s fall lineup, as was originally intended before a report from Right Wing Watch detailed the brothers’ ties to anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim activism. The brothers’ father is Flip Benham, who heads the fundamentalist Christian group Operation Save America.
“David and Jason Benham are well-qualified to star on an HGTV show; they are well-respected members of their community,” FDC said. “Now, this project has come to a screeching halt simply because the Benham brothers hold a biblical view of life and marriage. This is pure intolerance, discrimination, and bullying toward those who hold to widely held and legitimate views.”
Not everyone agrees about that “well-qualified” part. In addition to the brothers’ fundamentalism, David Benham led a prayer rally in 2012 in which he accused the "homosexual agenda" of “attacking the nation,” and accused “demonic ideologies” of taking over American schools and universities, as RWW reported. Word of the brothers’ ties spread quickly on Wednesday, prompting HGTV to announce via Twitter that it has “decided not to move forward with the Benham Brothers' series.”
In response to the decision, FDC snapped quickly into gear with “Flip This Decision,” an online campaign and corresponding petition through which social media users are now voicing their objections to what they see as growing intolerance toward Christians.
#FlipThisDecision join the fight for all to be heard! Christian American stand up!
â€” Ali Cat (@AliBray1995) May 8, 2014
The HGTV Facebook page is also being flooded with angry comments. “HGTV bows to bullies,” one user wrote. “I’m not surprised. Nobody has a backbone anymore. I won't be watching your programming. Good bye.”
FDC is no stranger to counter-protests. Last year the group led the “I Stand Will Phil” campaign following word that A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson had been suspended over anti-gay statements. Although A&E eventually reversed its decision, HGTV is not likely to feel the same pressure to reverse course on the Benhams, who do not have Robertson’s sizable fan base in their corner. If history is any guide, “Flip This Decision” will be superseded by another brewing controversy before the week is out.
HGTV is a division of Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. (NYSE:SNI), the lifestyle media company that owns the Food Network and the Travel Channel, among others.