Believe it or not, TLC actually stands for The Learning Channel. These days it might as well be called TSC: The Scandal Channel. Many of the most famous shows broadcast by TLC have had to be pulled from the schedules after problems came to light. Convinced you want to be a reality TV star? Well, these stories might just put you off…
20. Jon and Kate’s nasty divorce
Married couple Jon and Kate Gosselin were the stars of Jon & Kate Plus 8, a show that followed them about as they raised their large family. But then come 2009 they suddenly announced they were getting divorced – and it wasn’t an amicable split. That year Kate told People magazine, “I’ve screamed out loud. I’ve wanted to strangle him. What makes me the most angry is that all of these choices he made, they’re going to affect our children’s future.”
Jon had allegedly been unfaithful to his wife, an accusation he denied. Kate claimed he was the one who had pushed her into divorce proceedings. And things between the ex-couple didn’t get any better as time went on, either. In August 2017 cops were called to an orthodontist’s surgery after a “verbal domestic dispute over child custody.”
19. One Amish woman wasn’t Amish
TLC’s Breaking Amish had a simple premise: take members of the Amish community and introduce them to the very different lifestyle of a reality TV star. But Sabrina High, who had already starred in an Amish-focused show, wasn’t actually of the Amish culture. She had in fact been brought up in the Mennonite faith.
High suffered from substance abuse issues and eventually left the show. After a period of homelessness, she struggled to get back on her feet. In 2015 she posted on social media, “As some of y’all probably know, I moved back home with my Mennonite parents… I am so grateful for parents who love me, even after all the crap I have put them through.”
18. Not-so-great Kate
Kate Gosselin was still known as a TLC reality star when she opted for an appearance on Dancing With The Stars. Her partner was Tony Dovolani, and he did not like her at all. Cameras caught him storming away from her at one point. What’s more, after the show was done Dovolani only half-jokingly said he’d gone to therapy because of her bad behavior.
Gosselin responded with surprise to this. In April 2012 she wrote on the website Coupon Cabin, “I think it is a shame that Tony has been left only with a negative impression of our time together, especially after we spent SO many hours, days, nights and weeks working hard together doing our best in the competition.” She also wished Dovolani the best.
17. Million-dollar lawsuit
In 2016 there was a major legal kerfuffle between production company LMNO and TLC’s parent company, Discovery. LMNO filed a $7 million lawsuit against Discovery, who it accused of extortion, and several of TLC’s shows suddenly found themselves in limbo. The FBI even got involved and searched the LMNO offices.
Eventually, and fortunately for fans of TLC reality shows such as The Little Couple, an agreement was eventually reached. In February 2018 both companies released a statement saying the case had been resolved “to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.” But all the details and terms were to remain secret.
16. A Return to Amish star slammed it
Kate Stolz of Return to Amish had plenty of opinions to voice about the show on Twitter in 2016. She began by saying, “Doing a reality show was one of the worst decisions I made in my life. Everything on the show is so edited and out of context.” She had allegations to make against the producers, as well.
Stoltz tweeted, “The producers keep us in a room for hours and ask the same questions over and over — they’re relentless.” She also said that at another point, “the producers told me I was too boring and threatened to kick me off the show, so I did things to make them stop pressuring.” And she added, “I don’t know how they sleep at night.”
15. Kat Von D had to deny being an anti-vaxxer
The TLC show LA Ink helped make Kat von D famous. These days though she makes headlines for things other than her tattooing skills. Back in 2018 the skin-artist-turned-makeup-mogul announced that she wouldn’t be vaccinating the baby she was expecting. This unsurprisingly led to a lot of backlash.
In the end Von D did actually apologize for this, though. In March 2020 she told newspaper The Los Angeles Times that she’d “made a completely thoughtless post” and went on, “The truth is, I’m not an anti-vaxxer at all. I just made a mistake, and I was completely uninformed. It was stupid, and I really shouldn’t have opened my big mouth on the subject.”
14. Dr. Nowzaradan was sued
Dr. Nowzaradan was one of the most popular people on the reality show My 600-lb Life. People came to him needing to lose weight and he would try and help them. Despite this positive image, though, he’s had some pretty serious allegations leveled against him. In 2007 and 2012 he had people sue, claiming their family members died after getting gastric bypass surgery from him.
Nowzaradan denied any negligence and the lawsuits were later dropped. Then in 2012 another woman, Michelle Park, claimed that the doctor had left a 7-inch piece of tube inside her after an operation. This lawsuit too was dropped, but five years later Nowzaradan was sued yet again, this time by a woman who claimed his surgery had left her “deformed.”
13. Jacob Roloff leaving Little People, Big World
Jacob Roloff had been on the show Little People, Big World ever since he was a kid, but as soon as he turned 18 he upped and left. It turned out he had not been happy at all with the reality TV cameras following his life around – and he also implied on social media that he’d been cheated out of earnings.
In 2015 Jacob tweeted, “Man I wish it didn’t feel like I was getting ****** out of the money from the show that was my childhood right now,” but didn’t elaborate. The following year he wrote on Instagram, “The family that is filmed is not my family. They are the Roloff characters and I have scarcely anything in common with them.”
12. Sister Wives catfish scandal
Something strange happened on Sister Wives back in 2015. One of the stars, Meri Brown, began a relationship via Twitter not long after divorcing her husband. She thought she was talking to a man called Sam Cooper, but in fact on the other end it was a woman she was romancing, Jackie Overton.
During the 2016 season of Sister Wives Meri spoke about it all. She said, “This catfish was just planting things in my head and telling me how horrible my family was and specifically how horrible [ex-husband] Kody was. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t want him around… He’s not the one I should’ve pushed away.”
11. Honey Boo Boo was uncontrollable
Honey Boo Boo, aka Alana was a TLC star at a very young age. According to those who interacted with her and her mother Mama June, life in front of a camera was not serving her well at all. Upon seeing her on Jimmy Fallon’s TV show in 2014 one Salon website reporter called her “a tiny, dimpled monster” who even resorted to physically striking her mother.
None of this made it to air, but Salon’s reporter claimed, “It’s television, so instead of getting a timeout for hitting her mom, Alana was handed pompoms and asked to lead the audience in a cheer. We reluctantly played along for Jimmy’s sake, but it felt strange, like we were giving her some kind of reward for her behavior.”
10. The bride’s lawsuit
TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress is supposed to be about brides preparing for the happiest day of their lives. But no happiness was present when Ali Godino did the show. She apparently told TLC the episode had to air only after her 2016 wedding had taken place, and was furious when it went out before the big day arrived. So furious, in fact, that she sued.
At the time Godino told TV channel ABC News, “It really has whirlwinded into this nightmare. I’m pretty sure every woman who has ever been married or dreamt about getting married will understand.” TLC won the battle there, though. Not only did it air the episode, but Godino’s lawsuit was thrown out.
9. Stars of one show were outed as homophobic
The show Little People, Big World followed the Roloff family, some of whom had dwarfism. But members of the family got into hot water over their reportedly homophobic views. Jeremy and Audrey Roloff kept a blog about heterosexual dating and allegedly said on it that they didn’t agree with same-sex marriage.
The comments on the Roloffs’ blog were later deleted. That wasn’t all, though. Audrey is also a supporter of the Bevere family, who preach that homosexuality is a sin. And furthermore her husband Jeremy allegedly posted both racist and homophobic slurs on his MySpace webpage back when he was a teenager.
8. Groups and cultures have slammed their portrayal
TLC loves to take representatives of a particular group and film them as they go about their daily lives. But this doesn’t always go so well. When the show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding aired, Roma and Irish travelers were furious. They said that the show was offensive and perpetuated stereotypes.
The Amish weren’t happy with their portrayal on the show Breaking Amish either. A filmmaker called Mary Haverstick started a campaign against TLC, and in 2014 she told NPR’s All Things Considered radio show, “The Amish elder who told me that these shows make them look like garbage — when he said that to me with clear pain in his voice, I think it’s a moment I’ll never forget.”
7. Massively inappropriate outfits on Toddlers and Tiaras
In a crowded field, Toddlers and Tiaras might just be the most-reviled show in TLC history. The show sees toddlers competing against one another in a “beauty pageant,” but it’s the mothers who really seem to compete – to be most shocking. One episode saw a little girl dressed as Julia Roberts’ prostitute character in Pretty Woman, and in another a child smoked a fake cigarette.
In one notable episode, a two-year-old was dressed as Madonna, complete with the singer’s famous cone-shaped bra. The child in question forgot what to do for her performance, so her mother ran out on stage and tried to get her to dance. Unsurprisingly, the clip of this was met with outrage when it hit the internet.
6. Theresa Caputo allegations
Theresa Caputo was the star of Long Island Medium, but many people alleged that she was a fraud. A journalist called Mark Edward did an exposé on her for the show Inside Edition in 2012. He claimed Caputo had used social media to learn everything about her targets before they went on the show.
Edward recounted one particular performance of Caputo’s as part of his exposé. He said, “At one point Theresa asked a woman, ‘Why am I picking up baby clothes?’ To which the woman replied, ‘Oh, that’s weird. I just put up a bunch of pictures of baby clothes on my Facebook page!’ Not weird at all, really.”
5. Kat Von D also had to deny being a neo-Nazi
Kat Von D’s reputation has, shall we say, taken something of a hit in recent years. Some of this is because she got into a relationship with Jesse James, who’s been pictured in a Nazi hat and giving the Nazi salute on several different occasions. And after splitting from him she married Leafar Seyer… who has a swastika tattoo.
In 2019 Von D released a video in which she addressed this. She said, “Out of every comment that I’ve gotten, the ones that are calling me and my family Nazis are the ones that don’t sit well with me.” But she also once planned a lipstick called “Selektion,” a word most often associated with the Holocaust. So you be the judge.
4. The “My Husband’s Not Gay” controversy
TLC’s 2015 show My Husband’s Not Gay seemed like a bad idea right from the start. It followed around four men, all Mormons, who had attraction to other men but didn’t want to act on it. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) even released a statement condemning the show.
GLAAD called the show “downright irresponsible” and said, “By investing in this dangerous programming, TLC is putting countless young LGBT people in harm’s way.” Thousands of people also signed an online petition urging the channel to not air the show. But despite all this TLC went ahead and showed it anyway.
3. The Welcome to Plathville allegations
TLC’s show Welcome to Plathville is about farming family the Plaths. They apparently live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and live a lifestyle with only restricted technology. Some think this isn’t true, however. The farm was previously a rental on Airbnb and the Plaths apparently have property in Cairo, Georgia.
What’s more, one of the stars has come out against the show. In December 2019 Olivia Plath wrote a post on Instagram which read, “I made many mistakes during the filming of the show (the first one being allowing myself to be manipulated into doing it by family.) But until you’ve dealt with narcissist behavior, you have no idea how easy it is to freak out and react in an effort to protect yourself and those you love.”
2. Josh Duggar and Ashley Madison
Everyone knows about the incident which finished Josh Duggar. However, in 2015 there was yet another scandal involving him. In August of that year the news broke that Josh had been paying for a subscription on the Ashley Madison site, a website set up for people who want to cheat on their spouse.
Josh released a statement saying, “While espousing faith and family values, I have been unfaithful to my wife. I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.” It didn’t help matters much.
1. Honey Boo Boo’s paternity
After an horrific scandal that’s well known to all by now, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was canceled by TLC. Mama June went to WeTV instead and started doing Mama June: From Not to Hot. On that show she dropped a bombshell: the man who Honey Boo Boo thought was her father, Sugar Bear, might not be.
The DNA test results came back as “inconclusive” and it led only to family arguments and drama. But what about Honey Boo Boo herself, who was approaching her teens at that point? In 2018 she told In Touch magazine, “My current relationship with Sugar Bear is very dull. He’ll call me once a week if I am lucky.”