Tuesday night was the season premiere of Fixer Upper, the wildly popular HGTV show hosted by the Waco, Texas, husband-and-wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines. The show did boffo ratings, with the Hollywood Reporter noting that the 9 p.m. premiere “averaged 3.4 million viewers, topping every other non-news telecast on cable for the night.” Not bad at all for an episode in which Chip and Joanna helped a couple who wanted an indoor spa … for their dogs.
But that same day, BuzzFeed published a piece with the headline “Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage.” In it, the pastor of the Antioch Community Church, Jimmy Seibert, is accused of being “against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.” There’s a lot in the piece about Seibert’s beliefs and statements; there’s nothing about what Chip and Joanna themselves believe on this subject, because they haven’t made any public statements about it. And BuzzFeed demands to know: “Are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? … Would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show?” BuzzFeed got no response when it contacted HGTV.
As you may remember, I am on record as a fan of Fixer Upper. So I paid attention when the Gaineses found a perhaps unlikely ally in their defense: Megyn Kelly, who took time out from her current book tour to do not one but two whole segments of Wednesday night’s Kelly File on the attack on Chip and Joanna, defending them on the grounds of being smeared by “guilt by association.”
Kelly’s argument is essentially that you can’t accuse the Gaineses of being antigay just because their pastor has made antigay remarks. Fair point. But it would carry more weight if her network, Fox News, had not gone out of its way in recent weeks to attack Democratic politician Keith Ellison for having attended sermons by the anti-Semitic Rev. Louis Farrakhan. And of course, the Fox network has spent years smearing President Obama for sometimes attending church services over which the controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright has presided. I mean, fair is fair in the “fair and balanced” world of Fox News, right? Apparently not.
Let’s say the Gaineses do hold the beliefs that, as Seibert is quoted as saying in the BuzzFeed piece, “homosexuality is a sin” and, as Seibert is also quoted as asserting, “I have seen hundreds of people personally change their direction of same-sex attraction from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual lifestyle.” Would that alter my enjoyment of Fixer Upper? If the Gaineses made those sentiments their own, and part of their show, or expressed those ideas in interviews while promoting their TV series and their new bestselling book, The Magnolia Story — sure, I’d reconsider how much I liked this eminently likable couple.
But at this point, I’m not any more ready to connect thus far invisible dots between what Seibert has preached to the Gaineses than I am to condemn Obama for being seen in the same church as Jeremiah Wright. But you can bet that if Fox News is going to use this same reasoning to defend the Gaineses, I’m going to point out the hypocrisy of the network attacking Democrats who might attend church services in which radical clerics sometimes speak.
Fixer Upper airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. on HGTV.