Lacey Chabert says she would 'never abandon' Hallmark following Candace Cameron Bure debacle

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Lacey ChabertJoJo Siwa, Hilarie Burton and more stars are responding to the controversy around new network Great American Family, backed by Candace Cameron Bure, who says movies on the channel will focus on traditional families, with a mom and a dad.

Cameron told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Nov. 14 that her departure from Hallmark was due to a "change of leadership," calling it a "completely different network than when I started."

In response, Chabert told Vulture on Dec. 22, "Any shift I’ve felt has been embracing our creative ideas. … I’ll never abandon what Hallmark means for me, which is that everything is centered around the heart. I don’t think there are any plans for that to change anytime soon."

YouTube star Siwa, 19, expressed outrage on Instagram Nov. 15, saying Bure's comments about traditional marriage were "rude and hurtful to a whole community of people."

"I can’t believe after everything that went down just a few months ago, that she would not only create a movie with intention of excluding LGBTQIA+, but then also talk about it in the press," Siwa wrote, captioning a screengrab of an article from EDGE Media Network titled "Candace Cameron Bure's Plans for New Cable Channel: No Gays."

Siwa, who came out as a member of the LGBTQ community in 2021, was supported in the comments by her fellow "Dance Moms" alum Maddie Ziegler and Bure's "Full House" co-star Jodie Sweetin.

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JoJo Siwa attends an "America's Got Talent" event on Aug. 23, 2022 in Pasadena, California.
JoJo Siwa attends an "America's Got Talent" event on Aug. 23, 2022 in Pasadena, California.

What did Candace Cameron Bure say?

The EDGE story references The Wall Street Journal interview conducted with Bure in which she doubled-down on her position that "Great American Family will keep traditional marriage at the core."

Bure, 46, told USA TODAY in October during a discussion about inclusivity on the channel that Great American Family would "have people of all ethnicities," but is "going to focus on traditional families."

"We certainly don't want to be exactly like any other network, and I know that Great American Family will focus on tradition," she said.

She also said the network will "lean into the faith element," adding that means "more storytelling about the Christian faith and talking about God. And not just making God a general statement of belief, but actually talking about Jesus and more specifics of the Christian faith."

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Candace Cameron Bure addresses backlash over 'traditional marriage' comment

Actress and Great American Family executive Candace Cameron Bure
Actress and Great American Family executive Candace Cameron Bure

In a statement on Instagram Nov. 16, Bure said that "beyond question" she has a "great love and affection for all people" and "it absolutely breaks my heart that anyone would ever think I intentionally would want to offend and hurt anyone."

"It saddens me that the media is often seeking to divide us, even around a subject as comforting and merry as Christmas movies," she said. "But, given the toxic climate in our culture right now, I shouldn't be surprised. We need Christmas more than ever."

Bure added that as a "devoted Christian," she believes "every human being bears the image of God. Because of that, I am called to love all people, and I do. If you know me, you know that I am a person who loves fiercely and indiscriminately."

In her statement, Bure didn't address anyone that criticized her by name but rather had a "simple message: I love you anyway."

Bure continued: "To those who hate what I value and who are attacking me online: I love you. To those who have tried to assassinate my character: I love you. To everyone reading this, of any race, creed, sexuality, or political party, including those who have tried to bully me with name-calling, I love you."

Why did Candace Cameron Bure leave Hallmark?

Bure was a Hallmark regular for 14 years, starring in 30 movies including  “Let It Snow, “Christmas Under Wraps,” “A Christmas Detour,” “Journey Back to Christmas,” “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas,” “Christmas Town," “If I Only Had Christmas,” and "The Christmas Contest.

In April, she announced she was leaving the network. "The truth is I’ve been under contract with Hallmark for a very, very long time. And those have been absolutely wonderful. It just so happened that my contract was expiring when Great American Family started up," Bure told Variety in September of her decision.

What is her role at Great American Family?

The actress was offered an opportunity to shape Great American Family, a network co-founded by Bill Abbott, the former president and CEO of Hallmark Channel’s parent company, who developed that network's popular Countdown to Christmas.

Candace Cameron Bure stars in her first holiday movie for Great American Family, "A Christmas... Present," with Marc Blucas, Claire Capek and Caleb Reese Paul.
Candace Cameron Bure stars in her first holiday movie for Great American Family, "A Christmas... Present," with Marc Blucas, Claire Capek and Caleb Reese Paul.

"More than just being an actress on the channel or even producing movies, it's being ... an executive there to help build and grow the network," she said last month. Bure and Abbott hadn’t settled on a formal role, but she described her duties as "curating content for the whole channel. I'm part of programming and development."

When facing similar questions about representation, Abbott said "we always want to be inclusive, and it's certainly it's always an area of focus." This year's slate of holiday movies does not include any storylines involving same-sex couples.

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What happened with Candace Cameron Bure and JoJo Siwa previously?

This isn't the first time Siwa has called out Bure. In July, the actress-singer identified Bure as the "rudest celebrity" she’d ever met for not taking a picture with her at a "Fuller House" premiere when she was 11. Siwa told Page Six of the incident: "It was at the afterparty that she didn’t want to take a picture with me, and I was OK with that. But then I turned around, and when I looked back, she was taking pictures with other kids, and that's what made me really, really upset."

Bure said she was completely blindsided by Siwa’s comments in a video shared to Instagram and said that she immediately reached out to Siwa through a mutual friend, her publicist and a direct message. Bure apologized to Siwa and said the two had a "great conversation."

Bure added that the two went on to share their "joy for one another in that we are both positive, encouraging people."

"I told JoJo how much I’ve always appreciated her because she has been a good role model because of her positivity throughout her whole life and career, and she said she still loves watching 'Full House' and watches it to fall asleep," Bure said. "So we had all the feels and it was all good, and there’s no drama."

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Actress Hilarie Burton at the iHeartRadio Music Festival on Sept. 23, 2022 in Las Vegas.
Actress Hilarie Burton at the iHeartRadio Music Festival on Sept. 23, 2022 in Las Vegas.

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Hilarie Burton, Jonathan Bennett, more react to Bure' comments

While attending Elton John's final U.S. concert at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Nov. 20, Siwa elaborated on her feelings about Bure to People.

"We have not (talked), and I don't think we ever will again," Siwa said. "You not liking gay marriage, do your thing, girl. You being religious, do your thing, girl. Of course, I would want everybody to do what they want to do. But to purposely exclude someone because of who they love, that's (messed up)."

Siwa added that she hopes Bure will "have a conversation with GLAAD" president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "I think that Candace having a conversation with her would be not only eye-opening to Candace but eye-opening to a whole world of people who might have those same beliefs."

"One Tree Hill" actress Burton, who starred in several Hallmark movies, called Bure and Abbott "disgusting" in a tweet Nov. 14.

"Now they’re just openly admitting their bigotry," she wrote. "I called this (expletive) out years ago when Abbott was at Hallmark. Glad they dumped him. Being LGBTQ isn’t a 'trend'. That guy and his network are disgusting. You too, Candy. There is nothing untraditional about same-sex couples."

Burton alleged in a series of December 2019 tweets that the channel resisted her efforts to make a project more inclusive by adding an "LGBTQ character, an interracial couple and diverse casting" to a script. Burton says she exited the project after the network told her to "take it or leave it." "The bigotry comes from the top and permeates the whole deal (at Hallmark)," Burton tweeted. The network declined to comment on Burton's tweets at the time.

Jonathan Bennett and George Krissa strike up a romance in "The Holiday Sitter.”
Jonathan Bennett and George Krissa strike up a romance in "The Holiday Sitter.”

Jonathan Bennett, who starred in Hallmark's "The Christmas House" in 2020 (the network's first holiday film to feature a gay couple), discussed how "proud" he was of Hallmark's steps towards "so much inclusive programming" in an interview with E! News Nov. 15.

He is also starring in the upcoming LGBTQ+ led Christmas movie "The Holiday Sitter."

"I'm just so proud to be on (the) Hallmark channel that's making these movies for everyone, because Christmas is for everyone and Hallmark channels are for everyone," Bennett said.

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What is Great American Family?

Abbott left his post as president and CEO of Hallmark Channel’s parent company in early 2020 and co-founded Great American Media, which relaunched Discovery's former music channel, Great American Country, as Great American Family in September 2021. Abbott's new network has a holiday movie franchise of its own, Great American Christmas.

Hallmark announced Abbott's departure in January 2020. Abbott told USA TODAY in October that he left Hallmark because he was "just ready for something different." But he doesn’t hesitate about his desire to dethrone Hallmark.

“We believe we'll be the leader in quality family entertainment in this space,” he said, admitting "that's a lofty and challenging objective. But we think we have the team in place to do it and the experience to do it."

Contributing: Naledi Ushe, Edward Segarra, Amy Haneline and Charles Trepany

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Candace Cameron Bure's Christmas comments stir backlash