The Biggest Scandals In TLC History

TLC has been one of the most popular networks of the reality television age, but it's also been hit by a lot of scandal. The cast and crew of some of TLC's most popular franchises often find themselves in trouble with the law or feuding with the network. Many times, these scandals go contained for too long and when they blow up, they blow up big time.

The reality television era comes with another brutal truth. Scandals never die, and sometimes the network is the one taking the hit. TLC certainly found themselves in limbo while trying to figure out issues related to the Duggars or the Gosselins, for example. People have gotten fired, shows have gotten canceled, but somehow each time, the network lives to see another day and another drama.

A few of the scandals that have happened between the talent and staff of different TLC shows brought the network to the brink, however.

The Gosselins were one of the first families to have drama with the network

Jon and Kate Gosselin won the world's attention with their unusual family. After starring in two Discovery health specials about life with a set of sextuplets and a set of twins, the family got their own series (per IMDb). "Jon & Kate Plus 8" originally premiered on Discovery Health, but moved to TLC shortly thereafter.

In 2009, things started to fall apart between Jon and Kate. After 10 years of marriage, viewers noticed the dynamic between the couple changing. That May, rumors of infidelity on Jon's part came out, though he denied those rumors (per Us Weekly). Kate filed for divorce soon after.

Jon began a fight against Kate and TLC later that year after deciding he no longer wanted the children on television. He left the show in October 2009, at which time TLC sued Jon for breach of contract. He countersued for violation of child labor laws and a settlement was reached the following year (per CBS News). Over the following years as Kate continued a reality television career, there would be clashes between Jon and TLC over how much their children would work and appear on camera. 

Those clashes would lead to the end of "Kate Plus 8." After being found in contempt of court for violating the agreement upon which the kids could appear on the show, TLC fired Kate in December 2019 (per Radar).

More than one TLC show was called out for being fake

TLC shows usually have some pretty unique premises. However, fans have called out the network on what they've labeled as "reality television" in the past. There are two series in particular that continue to live on TLC, despite having been bashed by fans for not being what they claim to be.

One show in question is "Long Island Medium," where Theresa Caputo gives insight into what her life as someone who can communicate with the dead. Theresa goes about her day-to-day life, but if she gets that feeling, she's been known to stop what she's doing and offer a reading. Many fans have speculated the readings aren't legit. Experts believe she employs tricks like "piggy-backing," meaning that if she gets a reading wrong, she claims it was meant for someone else (per InTouch Weekly).

The other show in question is "Breaking Amish" and its spinoff series "Return To Amish." Viewers believed they were following members of the Amish and Mennonite communities as they experienced the modern world for the first time. Fans dug up information to the contrary, discovering some of these people had left their respective communities years ago. TLC released a statement rebutting the claims.

"Our Amish and Mennonite producers that we hired introduced us to Amish and Mennonite men and women who were already determined to leave," production company Hot Snakes Media told Variety. "They had already made the decision to go out and see the world, with or without us. They courageously allowed us to follow them on this journey."

TLC battled multiple issues with sex offenders in 2014

Two scandals involving sexual abuse rocked TLC in 2014. One involved the cast of the network's incredibly popular series "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," following the family of Alana Thompson of "Toddlers & Tiaras." The series got shut down in October 2014 when TLC learned family matriarch Mama June was dating a sex offender. The man, Mark McDaniel, had just been released from jail after serving 10 years for forcing oral sex on a child (per TMZ). Later, it was revealed that the child was Honey Boo Boo's older sister, Anna "Chickadee" Cardwell.

That same year, one of the moms from "Cheer Perfection" also became the subject of sexual abuse allegations. Andrea Clevenger, 34, pled guilty to sexual assault after having sex with a 13-year-old boy. TLC had made the decision to cancel the show prior to Clevenger's arrest, but released a statement assuring such. "TLC doesn't have a comment; Regarding the series, the network made the decision a few months ago not to order more episodes, and we do not air the show in repeats," they said (per Arkansas Matters).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Domestic issues plagued the network in 2015

The drama didn't stop for TLC on or off-camera in the mid-2010s. In 2015, "Gypsy Sisters" star Mellie Stanley called police after getting into a heated altercation with her boyfriend, Randall Scott Vuncannon. Vuncannon and Stanley had been arguing over rent when he picked up her dog and threw it across the room as hard as he could, killing the dog (per TMZ). The show was cancelled shortly thereafter, though TLC has said it was due to "dwindling ratings" and not the incident (per Gawker).

The "Sister Wives" cast also struggled through 2015 after an embarrassing incident called attention to the family at the center of the show. Shortly after Meri Brown divorced husband Kody Brown so he could marry fourth wife Robyn, she began talking to a man named Sam Cooper. At least that's what she thought, until Meri discovered she was being catfished. Sam was actually known scammer Jackie Overton, who went on to leak racy photos and private voicemails from Meri after being found out (per People).

Then there was "Little People, Big World" star Jacob Roloff, who decided to leave the show in 2015 after a vague accusation that he was not properly compensated for his time. "Man I wish it didn't feel like I was getting f**ked out of the money from the show that was my childhood right now," he tweeted shortly before the news broke.

Stereotyping communities also put TLC under fire

TLC has also found themselves in hot water over what people feel are unfair depictions of various communities. In 2015, a show called "My Husband's Not Gay" debuted. The show revolved around men who had feelings toward other men, but did not act on them as members of the Mormon faith (per The Atlantic). Not only did it depict harmful stereotypes of the gay community, but concerned viewers who signed a petition to have the show cancelled felt that it sent the message gayness could be suppressed or ignored. The pilot episode was the only one to air.

There were also complaints about TLC's various "gypsy"-related shows. While some looked past the offensive titles to see the substance of the content, they were left disappointed by TLC's exploitation of Irish traveller and Roma communities (per New Republic). Things got worse when a Romani author named Oksana Marafioti reached out to TLC to try to improve matters, only to find out they weren't very interested in depicting an authentic experience (per Slate).

"I suggested staying away from stereotypes if possible, but when [the producer] asked if I planned on attending any 'old-fashioned gypsy weddings or birthday parties' in the future, I felt so dismayed I wanted to cry," Marafioti wrote.

The Duggar sex scandal almost ruined the network

One of the most high-profile and controversial scandals to rock TLC was courtesy of one of its most conservative families. In 2015, reports leaked that the family's oldest child, Josh Duggar, had molested five underage girls from 2002 to 2003, when he was 14 and 15 (per InTouch Weekly). Later, it was revealed that four of the victims in the molestation were Duggar sisters. As noted by USA Today, two of the sisters who were targeted and abused by Josh were Jill and Jessa, but the other three survivors were not named. In the immediate aftermath, TLC pulled "19 Kids And Counting" off the air. 

Matters were made worse when Josh was revealed among those cheating in a leak from adult infidelity site Ashley Madison (per The New Yorker). The combination of scandals resulted in TLC cancelling of "19 Kids And Counting."  

Josh found himself in hot water again as of late. On April 29, 2021, he was arrested by federal agents in Arkansas for receiving and possessing child sexual abuse images (per TMZ). It's unclear if this will jeopardize the future of the Duggar sisters' show, "Counting On."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

The Willis family was another controversial family to rock TLC

The same year the Duggar family was imploding, TLC took a chance on another conservative family, the Willis family. In 2015, "The Willis Family" debuted on TLC (per IMDb). The family, who had a band that appeared on "America's Got Talent" and has 12 children, got just two seasons on TLC before scandal wiped them off the public radar.

On September 9, 2016, family patriarch Toby Willis was arrested on four counts of child rape in Kentucky (per InTouch Weekly). He would go on to plead guilty and be sentenced to 40 years. As if the situation wasn't horrific enough, it was revealed that the child between the ages of 9 and 12 that was his victim was one of his own children. TLC, of course, pulled the show off the air.

"As far back as I can remember, I was sexually abused by my father," daughter Jessica Willis Fisher admitted in a blog post. "I figure I was around three years old in some of the earliest memories. Initially, I had no way to know that anything was wrong." Jessica went on to explain that when she began to understand what had happened to her as a child, she didn't have the words to fully express what she had experienced. "There followed immense shame, distrust and hurt," she wrote. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).