Top 20 TLC Scandals & Controversies
VOICE OVER: Kirsten Ria Squibb
WRITTEN BY: Kim Mabee
These TLC scandals and controversies rocked the reality TV world. For this list, we'll be looking at all of the most shocking things that were discovered about the network's reality shows and their cast members. Our countdown includes "Toddlers & Tiaras," "Sister Wives," "Cake Boss," and more!
Top 20 TLC Scandals and Controversies
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 TLC Scandals & Controversies.
For this list, we’ll be looking at all of the most shocking things that were discovered about the network’s reality shows and their cast members. Because of the sensitive nature of these topics, a trigger warning is in effect.
Which of these scandals made your jaw drop? Let us know in the comments!
#20: Alina Kozhevnikova’s Discriminatory Social Media Posts
“90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days” (2017-)
Alina Kozhevnikova made history when she joined “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days” as the first cast member with a disability. But she also made headlines in early 2022 when several of her old social media posts resurfaced, which were full of derogatory remarks. In them, Kozhevnikova does everything from spewing racial slurs over and over to mocking Hugh Grant’s Asian family members. In response, TLC removed her from the show, and she posted a video that was nearly an hour long apologizing for her posts. We hope that she’ll learn from her mistakes, but there’s no doubt these comments were unacceptable.
#19: Jason Korpi & Kylen Smith’s Toxic Relationship
Anyone who has watched “Unexpected” knows that the cast tends to act pretty immature as they navigate becoming teenage parents. But Kylen’s baby daddy Jason crossed the line from childish to controlling and harmful. Without considering her feelings, he insisted that she go medication-free during labor and that she not give birth at a hospital. When Kylen was having the baby, he was so mean to her that he was removed from the hospital. Viewers were already petitioning to have him removed before this point, as they no longer wished to see this toxic relationship being promoted on their screens.
#18: Psychic Hoax?
“Long Island Medium” (2011-19)
As funny, quirky, and charismatic as the “Long Island Medium” Theresa Caputo arguably is, she has come across her fair share of skeptics. Many have vocalized doubts about her purported psychic abilities, claiming that she says generic things that could relate to many people and that she tries to “fish” for information. Some have even alleged that during public readings in stadiums, people that she knows will be in the front row to make everything more believable. Despite everything, Caputo says she doesn’t care if certain people don’t believe in her and her supposed gift, as her focus is those who do.
#17: Audrey Roloff Condemns Same Sex Marriage
“Little People, Big World” (2006-)
“Little People, Big World” has seen its share of scandals in recent years, and Jeremy’s wife Audrey has been at the center of one. It’s no secret that the duo are dedicated to their faith. But Audrey reportedly also has strong, homophobic opinions. Apparently, in 2016, she didn’t hold back in saying that her blog posts are not intended for people in same sex marriages, as she disapproves of them. Needless to say, viewers were not happy. Both she and her husband have repeatedly come under fire over the years for a slew of other issues pertaining to their conservative values, too. Even Jeremy’s brother Jacob reportedly doesn’t get along with them.
#16: Jorge Nava Possession Charges
“90 Day Fiancé” (2014-)
Alina Kozhevnikova wasn’t the first “90 Day Fiancé” franchise member to have a public scandal. Back in 2018, Jorge Nava was arrested after he was found to be in possession of a large amount of marijuana. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, but ended up serving less than that. Meanwhile, he and his then-wife Anfisa Arkhipchenko, the woman he was on the reality series with, decided to get a divorce. This scandal does have a happy ending though. Nava has a new woman in his life, Rhoda, and as of July 2022, they’ve had two babies together.
#15: The Malpractice Suits
“My 600-lb Life” (2012-)
Dr. Now has become known as the no-nonsense man behind the transformations on “My 600-lb Life.” However, he’s not immune to the accusations that seem to come along with being part of a TLC reality show. Some of his former patients and their loved ones have sued malpractice. One person reportedly passed away after Dr. Now failed to follow up with her. Another lawsuit involved a patient claiming that equipment was left inside of her during surgery. The production company behind “My 600-lb Life” has also been sued numerous times for allegedly being negligent and failing to provide adequate care for cast members.
#14: The Problematic Premise
“My Husband’s Not Gay” (2015)
In this case, the controversy is the program itself. “My Husband’s Not Gay” premiered as a documentary special in 2015, and people were quick to realize how problematic it was. It centered around Mormon couples as they navigate the fact that their husbands are all attracted to men. The show drew criticism before even hitting airwaves, as it perpetuated the idea that men could choose to be straight. It’s crazy to think that TLC would have air something where men suppress their feelings of attraction so they can stay in a heterosexual relationship. We can’t say we’re disappointed that this was a one-off special.
#13: Smoking Toddlers
“Toddlers & Tiaras” (2009-13; 2016)
This show was no stranger to controversy throughout its run, but a season 5 episode made many people’s jaws drop. During a ‘50s themed beauty pageant, Lisa dressed her daughter Destiny as “Bad Sandy” from “Grease.” As adorable as the little girl was, she was given an extremely unsettling prop: a fake cigarette to smoke on stage. Her mom was very insistent that she show it off. Audience members and judges alike were shocked, but Lisa defended herself after the incident. Considering the fact that tobacco companies have been targeting younger demographics, we can only hope that this episode didn’t influence any viewers.
#12: Derick Dillard’s Transphobia
“19 Kids and Counting” (2008-15) & “Counting On” (2015-20)
If we’re speaking of shows that are no stranger to controversy, this franchise definitely qualifies. TLC fired the Duggars’ son-in-law, Derick Dillard, from “Counting On,” though he says he left of his own accord. The decision came after he made transphobic remarks towards another TLC’er, Jazz Jennings, trying to deny her identity and repeatedly misgendering her. After his departure, he refused to apologize, telling people to “get over it” and that he was only trying to “protect children.” It’s clear that Dillard’s ignorance and misinformed opinions have no place on television. We’re happy to see that TLC took a stand against this kind of behavior.
#11: Broken Amish
“Breaking Amish” (2012-14) & “Return to Amish” (2014-)
One of the biggest scandals that can plague reality TV shows are claims that they’re fake, and that’s exactly what happened here. These two series follow young Amish people on their journey into the modern world and back, but some have questioned whether the storylines are fabricated. For instance, there have been claims that some of the people featured had already broken away from the Amish community. One of the cast members, Jeremiah, reportedly admitted that portions of “Breaking Amish” were scripted, though he said this was normal and didn’t discredit the show. Needless to say, viewers who were tuning in to see something new and authentic were left disappointed by these allegations.
#10: The Jon & Kate Saga
“Jon & Kate Plus 8” (2007-09)
This TLC series showing the daily life of a family with a set of twins and a set of sextuplets was an instant hit. But in 2009, viewers were shocked when parents Jon and Kate announced that they were separating. Things only got messier from there, as he insisted that his kids not be on the largely Jon-less “Kate Plus 8.” He was also sued by the network for breach of contract after making other television appearances. In recent years, he has said that almost none of the kids are in contact with him anymore. This show may have ended years ago, but the drama truly never stops with this family.
#9: Exploitation of Contestants
“Toddlers & Tiaras” (2009-13; 2016)
As we mentioned, “Toddlers & Tiaras” was criticized by viewers and critics alike throughout its time on the air. The show depicted young girls partaking in beauty pageants, which is problematic in and of itself. To make things worse, the moms often dressed their children in revealing and inappropriate clothing. The show was supposed to spotlight the work behind preparing girls for pageants and the families that make it happen. However, these kids were sometimes unwillingly being put on display to entertain everyone, which didn’t sit right with many. Naturally, many were far from heartbroken when TLC decided to cancel “Toddlers & Tiaras” after seven seasons.
#8: The Meri Brown Catfish Scandal
“Sister Wives” (2010-)
This “Sister Wives” scenario was certainly unexpected, and we couldn’t help but feel bad as we watched it unfold. The show that follows a polygamist family made headlines after a shocking reveal that Meri had been catfished. She had been involved in an online relationship with a man named Sam who turned out to be a woman named Jackie. To make matters worse, Jackie reportedly leaked intimate communications that were exchanged between the two. She even wrote a book about the affair entitled “Almost Meri’ed.” To no one’s surprise, it was anything but a success, with readers giving it extremely poor reviews and claiming that it’s filled with nonsense.
#7: Jacob Roloff Speaks Out
“Little People, Big World” (2006-)
Jacob is the youngest member of the Roloff family, and audiences were able to watch him grow up on “Little People, Big World.” Since leaving the show, though, he’s claimed that the production crew had turned his family into “characters” rather than showing their true selves. But as terrible as that is, it’s far from being the most disturbing thing he’s shared about his experience. Indeed, Roloff accused one of the show’s producers of assaulting him when he was a child. Ever since he first spoke about this horrific incident, his entire family, TLC, and scores of fans have vocally rallied around him.
#6: Andrea Clevenger’s Conviction
“Cheer Perfection” (2012-13)
This reality show about a cheerleading squad in Arkansas was known for showing the painful realities of competitive cheerleading. This, paired with all the drama, made for entertaining television. Yet one of the mothers, Andrea Clevenger, had a seriously dark secret that was revealed after the second season aired. She was charged and convicted of assaulting a 13-year-old, and was given a 10-year sentence. This is particularly distressing when you consider just how much time she spent among minors during her time on the show. Despite the shocking details of the case, Clevenger was released on parole back in 2017.
#5: Mellie’s Husband
“Gypsy Sisters” (2013-15)
This “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding” spinoff wasn’t exactly a popular TLC show. And in its four short seasons, it managed to cause one of the most devastating controversies to date. In 2015, Mellie, who was one of the main cast members, reportedly got into a huge fight with her husband. When the cops went into the house, they apparently discovered that he had fatally harmed Mellie’s dog. TLC claims they canceled the show due to poor viewership. Still, it’s hard to imagine how “Gypsy Sisters” ever could’ve stayed on the air after this, even if it’d had a cult following.
#4: Remy Gonzalez’s Assault Charges
“Cake Boss” (2009-20)
“Cake Boss” was known as one of TLC’s more wholesome programs, featuring an Italian-American family running a bakery that became famous for making over-the-top cakes. It was one of the network’s least controversial offerings, which made this news about Buddy’s brother-in-law all the more alarming. Back in 2012, Remy Gonzalez was convicted for assaulting a minor, and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The details of the incident that were revealed in the trial were truly disturbing, and it’s unclear what has happened to him in the last decade. There have, however, been some upset viewers who would rightfully like to see the episodes featuring Gonzalez removed from the air.
#3: Mama June’s Ties with Mark McDaniel
“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (2012-17)
This series became somewhat of a cultural phenomenon during its run. Still, TLC had no choice but to end it after the family’s matriarch was rumored to have rekindled her relationship with Mark McDaniel, convicted of assaulting children. The most devastating part is that his victim was Mama June’s daughter, Anna, who was understandably traumatized by everything she had endured. June denied that she was back together with McDaniel, though she admitted to having met with him after his release from prison. She has gotten sober and remarried, so we can only hope that things are looking better for their family.
#2: Toby Willis Convicted for Assaulting His Daughters
“The Willis Family” (2015-16)
This adorable family made waves when the 12 children first appeared on “America’s Got Talent,” drawing plenty of adorable comparisons to the von Trapp Family. But all was not well. Soon after being given their own reality show on TLC, the Willis family’s patriarch Toby was charged with assault. He was subsequently sentenced to 40 years in jail, and it was revealed that his own daughters were among his victims. The rest of the family started their road to recovery after publicly talking about their trauma, and we sincerely hope that they can heal from their devastating past.
#1: Josh Duggar’s Crimes
“19 Kids and Counting” (2008-15) & “Counting On” (2015-20)
The biggest TLC scandal to date came about when the eldest Duggar child, Josh, was accused of assaulting young girls, including some of his sisters, when he was a teenager. Naturally, this prompted the network to ax “19 Kids and Counting” from its lineup. And the distressing story doesn’t end there, as many more allegations have occurred since the show was called off. Duggar has also been accused of cheating on his wife, assaulting a woman, and possessing highly inappropriate materials featuring children. In late May of 2022, Duggar was sentenced to 12 and 7 months in prison for the latter crime, finally answering for his horrific actions. As you can imagine, “Counting On” was also canceled.