The 16 Biggest HGTV Scandals of All Time

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

From Cosmopolitan

Even if you’ve been living under a rock - a sad one-bedroom rock with old wallpaper, underutilized closet space, and no cable! - you probably still know all about Home and Garden Television. (It's the network has made you jealous of your best friend's under-rock home because it's 4 square feet larger and has a deck.)

Better known by its popular acronym HGTV, the cable channel runs a number of addictive shows where perky hosts turn shit boxes into more habitable (read: more monochromatic, cookie-cutter) shit boxes. You know you've got a Pinterest board full of their best tips! It's important to keep up with the latest trends in throw pillows, after all. And you know what else it's important to keep up with!? The ~scandals~ that surround the hugely popular station. Here are some of the hottest of hot-mess moments from HGTV's history - drama that even a coat or five of shiplap can't cover up.

1. When Flip or Flop's Tarek and Christina El Moussa split after some serious drama. The couple announced their split with a statement to People magazine Dec. 12, stating that they had faced "challenges" in their marriage, and in particular citing an "unfortunate misunderstanding about six months ago" as the big issue. TMZ offered up more details on that "misunderstanding," describing it as "a scary incident involving guns and a feared suicide attempt." After a big fight, police were called to the couple's home and saw Tarek running from the property with a gun (Christina also fled the house crying). After being found by police, Tarek explained he had gone out with his gun to "blow off some steam."

Photo credit: Bennett Raglin / Getty Images
Photo credit: Bennett Raglin / Getty Images

2. And when one of the Property Brothers got in a bar brawl. Jonathan Scott, one of the esteemed Property Bros, got into a bar fight at a North Dakota last June and reportedly had to be dragged from the premises. The drinking establishment was apparently closed at the time, and Jonathan and his crew got upset when their drinks were taken away ... fast-forward to the bar’s bouncer allegedly having Scott in a headlock and the TV star calling 911 to report that he’d been assaulted. At the end of the day TMZ’s video of the altercation proved not to be enough to get the Property Bro et al in trouble, and charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

3. When a Love It or List It home was maybe destroyed. A North Carolina couple filed a lawsuit in April against the production company behind Love it or List It, claiming their home was left “irreparably damaged” after the show filmed. The Miami Herald reported that Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan asked the production company to clean up the shoddy work of the construction company hired to work on the couple’s house. Apparently they left the place in major disarray, with low-grade carpet, ruined floors, and windows painted shut. Not great!

4. When it was revealed that House Hunters is a GD lie. When former House Hunters participant Bobi Jensen flat-out called the show a sham, I was initially like, “WHAT!” and then after a moment of processing it, I was all, “Oh yeah totally. That makes a lot of sense.” In a now-infamous 2012 post on the Hooked on Houses blog, Jensen shared that HGTV producers didn’t like her initial plan to remodel her current home so she could rent it out and basically told her that the episode would be about her family’s desperation for more square footage instead. They also forced Jensen to buy the new house before the episode aired, and the houses they toured on the show belonged to family friends. Shots fired!

When it became apparent that HGTV wasn't gonna be able to throw a drape over this scandal, they gave the following statement to EW:

We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the home buying process. To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process. Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions. Because the stakes in real estate are so high, these homeowners always find themselves RIGHT back in the moment, experiencing the same emotions and reactions to these properties.

So, they basically admitted everything, and also admitted nothing. That's more crafty than Joanna with sub-par siding!

5. And when the beginning of Fixer Upper was hella fake. Herein starts all your fave juicy Fixer Upper scandals - sit down and get comfy, OK!? According to season three participant David Ridley in a November 2016 interview with Fox News, the home-picking process at the beginning of Fixer Upper is fake AF. Similar to what Bobi Jensen said about House Hunters, Ridley claimed that he’d been forced to purchase a new home before even applying for the show. "You have to be under contract to be on the show. They show you other homes but you already have one," he said. "After they select you, they send your house to Chip and Joanna and their design team." Tsk, tsk, HGTV.

6. When the world learned that the Fixer Upper homeowners don't get to keep their furniture either. I hope you're sitting down because it's true: the people who have their homes fixer upped don't get to keep their fly new furnishings. Say it ain't so, Joanna! (She can't, because it is.)

From Starcasm:

No, the families don’t get to keep the furnishings. Every piece comes from Magnolia Market, the storefront Joanna runs in Waco, and is indeed added to the house to make it feel as cozy as possible before the new owners move in. In fact, savvy viewers have noted that bigger pieces–couches, overstuffed armchairs, dining room tables–are sometimes used in multiple episodes.

I guess the people could go to Magnolia Market if they want to buy the furniture back? I mean, if they even have a parking lot. (Please see no. 8 below.)

7. When Chip and Joanna didn't like their fixed-up houses being rented out on Airbnb. Apparently lots of people like to rent out their Fixer Upper houses on Airbnb, and Chip and Joanna aren't too fond of that. Maybe if they let them keep their furniture, they wouldn't need to, IDK! They issued this very measured statement about it:

We have no problems with our clients’ interest in using sites like VRBO and Airbnb to rent out their homes. In fact, we get it. But we are going to be more strict with our contracts involving ‘Fixer Upper’ clients moving forward. We want to honor our national viewing audience. We want to do remodels for clients’ homes. That’s the true intent of our show, and we want to ensure that does not get lost in this new vacation rental trend. What started off with perfectly understandable intentions could cast a shadow of a doubt on the much bigger picture, and we are going to do our best to protect that moving forward.

Translation: We're straight-up pissed and this isn't happening again.

8. When Chip and Joanna Gaines got hit with $1 million lawsuit. Chip and Joanna are in the process of being sued for $1 million over the property around their Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, Texas. It’s a bit complicated, but basically the alley next to the market doesn’t belong to Gaineses, and they had a lease agreement with the previous owners to use it for customer parking. However, when the old owners sold the alley, the new owners decided not to renew the lease (apparently planning instead to charge Magnolia Market customers for parking, because duh). Chip put up a gate to separate the free/not-free parking lots, but the alley's owners are now seeking between $200,000 and $1 million in damages from said gate on their property and want it removed. That’s some major drama for the parking lot of a country market in middle-of-nowhere Texas - it probably has nothing to do with the fact that the owners are HGTV stars, right?!?!

9. And when Chip and Joanna Gaines's pastor preached conservative, anti-gay values. Last month, BuzzFeed wrote about the Gaineses' affiliation with a non-denominational evangelical church whose pastor, Jimmy Seibert, opposes homosexuality and gay marriage. In response, HGTV issued a statement affirming the network’s commitment to LGBT rights, writing, "We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series." Chip and Joanna never responded, except to ask their fans to stop harassing writers who covered the story.

Photo credit: Terry Wyatt / Getty Images
Photo credit: Terry Wyatt / Getty Images

10. Also when a show was canceled before it even got on the air. HGTV was set to debut a new show, Flip It Forward, in October of 2014, but it was soon pulled from the lineup when one of the star’s controversial comments about same-sex marriage, abortion, and Islam caused major uproar. The show was four weeks into production when it was revealed that the hosts, twin brothers David and Jason Benham, had led prayers at anti-gay protests and their father, Flip Benham, was an extreme anti-choice, conspiracy theorist preacher. The show was quickly shut down, and we are never to speak of the Benham brothers again!

11. When the star of Rehab Addict hid her second pregnancy and also got caught in a custody fight. When Nicole Curtis, the star of the highly addictive (but never on! What gives, HGTV!?) Rehab Addict, was pregnant with her second kid, Harper, she kept her baby bump hidden using all sorts of visual trickery. (She did announce her pregnancy on Facebook.) Curtis later explained it was because she didn’t want the public to know her business, which is totally fair. The public isn't entitled to knowing everything about our favorite celebrities! Just most things!

Additionally, in her memoir, Better Than New, Curtis gets real about the hard custody battle she fought with her youngest son’s father. According to Fox News, she was banned from taking him to worksites with toxins present and was warned she would face jail time for skipping out on expenses, attorney fees, and missed visits between her son and her ex.

12. Also when Curtis royally pissed off her neighbors and almost lost her home. Because renovations on the Rehab Addict's Minneapolis home were moving at a glacial pace, her neighbors started complaining to the city council. The city council found that Curtis's renovation was a "burden" on her community, and some of her neighbors crashed a charity fundraiser at her home to inspect the house.

For her part, Curtis never spoke directly with any of the complainers, choosing to address everything on Facebook: "The long and short of it is I wrote done big checks to people we felt we could trust to get this done -and it didn't," she wrote in a comment. "By the time we got caught up to speed it was a hot mess and we were onto other projects and quite frankly, my family comes first."

Photo credit: Alexander Tamargo / Getty Images
Photo credit: Alexander Tamargo / Getty Images

13. When Flip or Flop charged its fans a lot of money to learn how to flip homes from them - and then never showed up. According to the Associated Press, fans of the show were tricked into signing up for expensive classes where the show’s hosts, Tarek and Christina, were supposed to teach them their flipping ways. In interviews, former students complained the hosts never showed up, there wasn’t any real instruction, and the only thing they learned was how to sign up for more courses. HGTV claims to have known nothing about the classes, so their hands are clean.

14. When the winner of Ellen’s Design Challenge possibly stole his "original" design and was disqualified. When furniture designer Tim McLellan won the 2015 contest - and the $100,000 prize - he was ecstatic. Well, ecstatic until he was quickly dethroned when it was revealed that his final challenge was actually "plagiarized" from another designer. In under a week, his title and spoils were taken away and given to fellow finalist Katie Stout.

In a subsequent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, McLellan denied he has consciously copied anyone else's work. While not giving him back the win, Ellen commiserated with him, sagely saying, "Most furniture is a derivate of something. Maybe something starts it, but chairs, tables, everything - it’s similar."

15. When people freaked out over the suggestion to use an American Flag as a tablecloth. In 2013, a HGTV segment called "Classic Fourth of July Table Setting Ideas," suggested using a nylon flag as a table runner "so spills can be easily wiped off and the flag can later be hung with pride on a flag pole." The internet wasn't having it, and quickly bombarded the network's Facebook page with, um, unpleasant comments.

HGTV removed the article from its website and issued an apology:

HGTV Fans, regarding the recent article that appeared on our website ... This was a regrettable use of our flag and it never should have happened. We sincerely apologize and have removed the post from our website. We want to assure our fans that HGTV is proud of the American flag and everything it symbolizes for our people.


16. And when hardly anybody keeps their "dream homes." Since 1997, HGTV has been giving away a "dream home" valued at over $1 million every year to one lucky winner. Sounds awesome, right? Wrong! The accompanying taxes are so high that every winner save two has sold their homes almost immediately. Maybe they should consider renaming the sweepstakes, "Nightmare IRS Shacks," or something catchier?

The drama continues to this day, literally. Oh, HGTV!

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